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Gene Wilder dies aged 83

The actor starred as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

The actor Gene Wilder
(© Warner Brothers/Tandem Production)

Stage and screen actor, director and writer Gene Wilder has died at the age of 83, according to his family.

Wilder's nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he passed away after complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home in Connecticut. The two-time Oscar nominee was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999.

In a statement, Walker-Pearlman said: "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 starred in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971 and was famous for his work with director Mel Brooks on films such as Blazing Saddles and The Producers.

After graduating from university in Iowa in 1955, he enrolled at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the UK.

His first film role was in 1967 when he played a hostage in the film Bonnie and Clyde but his breakthrough role was Leopold in The Producers in 1968, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

He was nominated for an Oscar for Adapted Screenplay for the film Young Frankenstein, which he also starred in. Wilder worked closely with Richard Pryor, starring in films including Silver Streak (1976), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991).

Though Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was not an immediate success, the film became a cult hit, with generations of children recognising him as the face of the tricksy chocolate factory owner.

Wilder married actress Gilda Radner in 1984, but two years later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and in 1989 she passed away. Her death prompted Wilder to try to raise awareness of the disease.

He starred in Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor in the West End in 1996.

In 2003 he starred in TV sitcom Will and Grace and won an Emmy.

In later life, Wilder took to writing, including the novels My French Whore (2007) and Something to Remember You By (2013).


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