Gene Wilder: Remembering the Hollywood star who shone in the Gravediggers' bar

Gene Wilder as Quackser Image copyright US
Image caption Gene Wilder played the horse manure man, Quackser Fortune, in the 1970 film

A famous Irish pub has raised a glass and posted a picture tribute to Hollywood star actor Gene Wilder who shot a comic scene hiding in its toilet.

Wilder, remembered by many for his lead role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at the age of 83, his family confirmed on Tuesday.

Nearly 50 years ago, Wilder strolled into Dublin's old 'gravediggers' bar - The John Kavanagh.

The film director shouted: "Action".

It was 1969 and Wilder was acting in the film: Quackser Fortune has a Cousin in the Bronx.

"It was a big thing for Hollywood to come to our bar back then," said Ciarán Kavanagh.

He is the seventh generation to work in the Kavanagh family business that was started, he said, by his great, great, great, great, great grandfather.

"I remember my father and uncles talking about Gene Wilder."

Image copyright Kavanagh family
Image caption The old pub sits snugly on the corner at Glasnevin cemetery gates

The old pub sits at the gate of Glasnevin cemetery in the north of the city - the famous resting place of Ireland's political giants, Daniel O'Connell, Michael Collins and Charles Stewart Parnell.

The bar is just a year younger than the cemetery itself, dating back to 1833, said Ciarán.

The story goes that the cemetery workers had their own handy short cut through a hole in the wall to slake their thirst after a hard day's digging.

In 1970, the old fashioned working man's bar with its wooden snugs appeared in three scenes in Wilder's film, Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In the Bronx.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Kavanagh family have fond memories of Gene Wilder and Quackser

Wilder played Quackser, a poor Irishman who made his living collecting horse dung to sell to keen gardeners. In the film, he falls in love with an American exchange student, Margot Kidder. when she nearly runs him over.

Ciarán Kavanagh said there was a great fuss about the big American stars coming to Dublin.

"My father and my uncles ran the bar back then. It was a big deal for them to have Hollywood come to Glasnevin. They told me that Gene Wilder was very friendly to everyone.

"At that stage when my grandfather ran the bar, he would open up at about 6pm and close down at about 9pm, depending on how busy it was. It was very much a local bar for local men. So when Gene Wilder came over, it would have been a big thing."

For Ciarán, the scenes set in the old pub are a gentle stroll down memory lane.

"In one scene, Wilder is sitting on our old toilet reading a newspaper as the police search for him," he said.

The pub has had its own movie career.

It also featured in The Young Cassidy - a film about Irish playwright Seán O'Casey.

In more recent times, the pub was a period backdrop for scenes starring Irish actor and Hollywood star Gabriel Byrne in the detective series, Quirke.

David Davin-Power, political correspondent for Irish state broadcaster, RTÉ, has his own memories of the Quackser film.

He was about 17 and had signed up as an extra when the American cast came to town.

Following news of Wilder's death, he tweeted about his brief brush with the Hollywood great.

"The film was all shot around Dublin and it was dreadful," he said.

"I was an extra but there was one part where I had to direct Gene Wilder and say: 'She went that way,'" he said.

"None of the extras had any contact with the actors, you weren't allowed to talk to them but, because of my one line, Gene knew me and he always name checked me and said: 'Hello, David.' That was a big deal.

"He was a lovely fella and he had that whimsical way with him."

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