Gene Wilder, the comedic icon best known for his work with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, died Sunday at the age of 83 of complications from Alzheimer's disease. At the peak of his career in the '60s and '70s, Wilder starred in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers.
Wilder's nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said in a statement to Variety:
"We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him 'there’s Willy Wonka,' would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
"He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones."
In wake of the widely beloved and influential actor's death, celebrities of several generations, including longtime collaborator Brooks, expressed their condolences and admiration on Twitter:
Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.— Mel Brooks (@MelBrooks) August 29, 2016
RIP Gene Wilder. Only happy memories of making Sunday Lovers together.— Sir Roger Moore (@sirrogermoore) August 29, 2016
RIP Gene Wilder pic.twitter.com/TuMQheQCa4— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) August 29, 2016
I saw Blazing Saddles 7 times at the cinema with my school friends . George St. Cows outside.— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) August 29, 2016
Gene Wilder you were a genius. Rest in Peace.
GENE WILDER, the face of childhood joy for many a generation, has passed. Farewell, sweet genius. Gilda awaits you. https://t.co/pybXNFlGaq— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) August 29, 2016
He was always able to make us smile, and that is no small feat. Rest with the stars, Gene Wilder. pic.twitter.com/kxis66bIGd— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 29, 2016
RIP to the legendary Gene Wilder. 2016 has been painful so far. pic.twitter.com/7nbqY7Unva— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) August 29, 2016
"Good Day Sir!"— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) August 29, 2016
RIP Gene Wilder
Gene Wilder as one of my earliest heroes. Blazing Saddles, Willy Wonka, are CLINICS on comic acting. Sad to hear of his passing.— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) August 29, 2016
Rain Pryor, the daughter of late comedian Richard Pryor, shared her own recollection of Gene and Richard working together, which you can read below.