After decades of delighting audiences with his nonpareil comic sensibility, Gene Wilder has passed away at 83. His nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, says the actor, writer and director died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Wilder first came to fame with his role in “The Producers,” earning an Academy Award nomination and a decades-long collaboration with Mel Brooks. The two also worked together on “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein,” which Wilder co-wrote with Brooks; the pair received an Oscar nod for their screenplay. He was known best to generations of viewers for his title role in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” which evinced a certain menace behind the smile — the kind of performance that seems more sinister with age.
Born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wilder wrote and directed a number of films as well. He was also an accomplished writer outside of Hollywood, penning a memoir, a short-story collection and three novels, the most recent of which was published just three years ago. Wilder had not appeared on the silver screen since 1991’s “Another You,” and his most recent acting work of any kind, a two-episode stint on “Will & Grace,” earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Comedy Series in 2003.