Gene Wilder, the legendary actor best known for his work in Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein, has died. He was 83.

Gene Wilder Dies

Wilder died earlier this month at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications from Alzheimer’s disease, his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. Wilder previously battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Before finding success on the big screen, Wilder was a respected stage actor. In 1963, while starring on Broadway opposite Anne Bancroft in Mother Courage and Her Children, he met Mel Brooks. A few years later, Brooks cast him in The Producers, in which he acted alongside Zero Mostel.

Wilder would go on to work with Brooks on Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Before those notable collaborations, however, Wilder landed the role of Willy Wonka in the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


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In a statement, Wilder’s nephew Walker-Pearlman revealed that his uncle was still recognized for the iconic part, and that that was part of the reason that his illness was not made public.

“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,” reads Walker-Pearlman’s statement. “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.”

The nephew added, “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.”

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