HOLLYWOOD—Comedic actor, Gene Wilder, known for his roles in films like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Young Frankenstein” passed away on Monday, August 29 at the age of 83. Jordan Walker-Pearlman, a nephew of Wilder’s, said in a statement that Wilder’s death was due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Wilder passed away at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He is survived by his wife Karen Boyer. Wilder was born on June 11, 1933 as Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He got his first big break in a small role of the off-Broadway production of “Roots.” His Broadway debut came playing the part of the comic valet in “The Complacent Lover” in 1961 which he won a Clement Derwent Award for his performance.
In 1967, he got his first movie feature role in “Bonnie and Clyde.” Wilder gained more fame playing the role of Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in 1971. He became part of Mel Brooks’ “stock company” and played the role of Leo Bloom in Brooks’ “The Producers” in 1967 earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Wilder got his second Academy Award nomination for his first-time with screenwriting efforts along with Brooks for “Young Frankenstein” in 1974 where he also played the lead role of Dr. Frankenstein.
Mel Brooks posted on Twitter about Gene Wilder’s passing, “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.”
Wilder made his debut as director with “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” in 1975. He first acted with Richard Pryor in 1976 with “Silver Streak” and they acted together in several later films. He starred in three films with his late wife, Gilda Radner, beginning with “Hanky Panky” in 1982.
In his lifetime, Wilder won four awards and was nominated for 10 awards including his two Oscar nominations.