Jonathan Winters is crazy. Crazy funny. Crazy brilliant. Crazy nice. Crazy for love. Crazy talented. A comedian, a comic, a writer, a painter, an artist. Most people of a certain generation (and their kids) remember him from the 1963 Stanley Kramer film, IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD. The gas station scene where Jonathan single-handedly goes crazy and destroys an entire building has everyone rolling on the floor. My favorite and most memorable moments of that film are Jonathan on a tricycle. I remember at the time, that as absurd as it was, Jonathan seemed the most sane (and real) of all the cast in the film.
Jonathan had just come out of a self-imposed stint at a mental rehab facility. And to his credit, he had checked himself in, having spent too many nights doing stand-up with all the trimmings of excess that performers indulge in while on the road. When director Stanley Kramer called and offered him the part, he questioned the director’s sanity in his choice. “Don’t you realize I just got out of the crazy house?” Mr. Kramer explained that was exactly why he wanted him in the film. He understood him completely. Jonathan’s wife, Eileen, insisted he take the part and never look back and that’s exactly what he did. The rest is history.
While shooting CERTIFIABLY JONATHAN, we were with the “crazy” bi-polar genius off and on for nearly three years. He was always in good spirits and he was quite generous with his time while playing with us. The crazy Jonathan we saw was creative, funny and just plain fun to be around. Only a few times, when he hadn’t taken his meds and was emotionally vulnerable, did he reveal a sadness or anger particularly when talking about his parents.
The one thing Jonathan has always valued over his fame and celebrity is his family. That’s where Jonathan and I found we had much in common and have discussed in great length. He also believes he paid a price for that as he never reached the level of show business success that some of his contemporaries did. Many if not most of them were willing to give up their families for their careers. Not Jonathan. In fact, he just lost his wife of 62 years last year. That kind of relationship is rare even outside of the industry. Eileen was the rock, the sane one that allowed Jonathan to be his crazy self all those years in public and still be sane at home.
-Richard Marshall, Producer