The Associated Press has reported legendary actor Gene Wilder, known to many as Willy Wonka from the 1971 classic of the same name, has died at age 83.
Wilder's nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, confirmed his death late Sunday night in Stamford, Connecticut. He died as a result of complications from Alzheimer's Disease.
Walker-Pearlman says 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.”
Wilder was the star of many Mel Brooks' films, including Young Frankenstein (1974), The Producers (1968) and Blazing Saddles (1974). The director offered his condolences 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
Wilder received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Producers and later a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Young Frankenstein. His acting career began in the '60s on television and Broadway.
In 1989, Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and his then-wife Gilda Radner died from ovarian cancer. Afterward, there was a slow-down in Wilder's career, with the exception of an Emmy-winning role on Will & Grace.