Unfortunately, Gene Wilder has passed away at the age of 83 due to complications with his Alzheimer’s disease.
The actor is known for his role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as well as his other career defining roles in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers.
The actor’s nephew released a statement (via Variety) saying:
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.
The effect of this man on me is immeasurable, and I am sure many people feel the same way. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was my absolute favorite movie growing up, and Gene Wilder and Robin Williams are the reason I went to theatre school to be an actor.
Truly we can say now that classic comedy has died.