Gene Wilder, the beloved actor known for his work in classic films such as the 1971 version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has passed away. TMZbroke the sad news Monday afternoon. Wilder was 83. Wilder's nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, toldVariety he died due to complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home in Connecticut.
Wilder was known for his prolific film career that also included memorable turns in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), and more. It was Wilder's portrayal of Willy Wonka, however, that captured the imaginations of multiple generations. Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe for the iconic performance, a character which was later revisited by Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
"I thought the script was very good, but something was missing," Wilder told Robert Osborne of the Willy Wonka production during a 92nd Street Y discussion in 2013, IndieWirenotes. "I wanted to come out with a cane and come down slowly, have it stick into one of the bricks, get up, fall over, roll around, and they all laugh and applaud. The director asked, 'What do you want to do that for?' I said from that time on, no one will know if I'm lying or telling the truth."
In a statement to Variety, Walker-Pearlman said:
"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."
Fans of all ages quickly shared their fond memories of Wilder's work on Twitter:
RIP Gene Wilder.