US acting great Gene Wilder has died overnight, passing away on Monday at his Stamford Connecticut home on Monday.
The star’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he had died from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
He was 83 years old.
A statement released by Walker-Pearlman said, “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.”
Wilder in the 1971 hit, Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory. Source: Youtube.
Walker-Pearlman also said Wilder 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.”
Best known for his namesake role in the 1971 cult-classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wilder was also nominated for two Oscars - for his role in The Producers and for co-writing Young Frankenstein with fellow comic great, Mel Brooks.
Wilder was also diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.