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'Willy Wonka' Actor Gene Wilder Dies Age 83

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Gene Wilder, the man who brought Willy Wonka to life in 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at 83-years-old. He spent his later years suffering from Alzheimer's.

American actor Gene Wilder, perhaps best known for portraying the titular role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at the age of 83, his family confirmed.

He spent his later years suffering from Alzheimer's; his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman has confirmed he died of complications from the disease.

His nephew said in a statement: “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 recognise 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 died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut on Monday (August 29).

The comic actor starred also in classic films such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. He was a long time collaborator with Mel Brooks as well as stand-up comedian Richard Pryor.

He was a two-time Oscar-nominatee and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1989. He continued to work as an actor despite this, starring as a political cartoonist who falls in love in the 1990 film Funny About Love, and in the 1991 movie Another You.

Wilder guest-starred on two episodes of NBC's Will & Grace, winning a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Comedy Series.

He is perhaps most noted for bringing Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka to life on film.

When offered the role in 1971, the star was quoted as star was quoted as saying: "When I make my first entrance, I'd like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I'm walking on and stands straight up, by itself... but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.


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