Gene Wilder, a longtime actor, screenwriter, director, author and famous movie star of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fame, has died, according to his family.
Wilder was known for a string of iconic roles in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, including leads in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein.
Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman posted a statement to Facebook calling Wilder “the most important man in my life” and a “universal artist.”
“It is with unbearable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announce the passing of husband, parent and universal artist Gene Wilder,” Walker-Pearlman posted. it is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him.”
The statement confirmed Wilder died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Stamford, CT. Walker-Pearlman, who signed the statement “Gene’s Kid,” said the diagnosis was given three years ago but decided to keep the illness private.
“We understand all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented, we have been the lucky ones,” Walker-Pearlman wrote. “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. It took enough, but not that.”
The statement said the decision to keep the diagnosis private was to protect the kids who knew him as Willy Wonka to not be confused or worried about an illness.