Best known for his starring roles in films such as Blazing Saddles and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, legendary actor Gene Wilder has passed away at the age of 83. The actor brought joy to millions who viewed his films.
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Wilder’s nephew confirmed reports that the actor and writer died earlier this month in Stamford, Connecticut due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Wilder struggled with the disease for three years but chose not to disclose his illness to the public.”He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world,” Walker-Pearman said.
He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Karen Boyer. Wilder’s friends, co-workers and admirers were quick to pay tribute to the actor on Monday, following the news of his death.
A man who lit up the world with his joy and genius. I can't say what it meant to act with him and get to know his heart. ❤️RIP #GeneWilder
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) August 29, 2016
Gene Wilder. Bless you for all these years of laughter and love, such warmth and humanity. Thank you, thank you, thank you #GeneWilder
— Leonard Maltin (@leonardmaltin) August 29, 2016
Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1933, Wilder became infatuated with theater at an early age. After graduating from the University of Iowa, he studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England. Wilder made his Broadway debut in 1961 and soon became acquainted with the world renowned writer-director Mel Brooks.
Wilder was always known for his comedic roles with Brooks. Who could forget him as the “The Waco Kid” who stole the show in Blazing Saddles with his hilarious one liners as the drunk witty sheriff?
The role he was most known for was the beloved Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as the man who held a competition for who would run the factory after his passing. That role earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.
One scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory truly showed his versatility as a actor – the psychedelic boat trip. One minute he’s scaring the audience, the next bringing a big smile to their faces.
Adding to the long list of loved films, Wilder starring as the stressed-out Leo Bloom in Brooks’ breakout 1967 film, The Producers and later in the monster movie spoof Young Frankenstein.