August 30, 2016

Following the announcement that Gene Wilder died earlier this month of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, James Corden paid tribute to the actor during the opening monologue of The Late Late Show.

The host began Monday night’s episode by telling the story of the time he met Wilder, recalling that he came to a play Corden was in soon after moving to New York and sat backstage with him afterward. “If anyone else came backstage, they’d stay for five, six, 10 minutes tops — he sat in my room for half an hour,” he said. “We sat on this couch, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live. The thing I remember — I was thinking about it today — was all he really wanted to talk about was how my wife and son were adjusting in New York, and were we happy, and was it fun? It was amazing.”

Corden then revealed that he had tried to persuade Wilder to appear on the first episode of The Late Late Show — which included a Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory bit — but that he had refused him with an email that embodied everything Wilder was as a person.

“In the history of people saying no to things, it couldn’t have been nicer,” Corden said. “Even the way he said no was so poetic. Even his emails sounded somehow like Willy Wonka.”

Watch the full clip below.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.

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