And just like that Willa Wonka is gone. At the age of 83, Wisconsin-born actor, screenwriter, director, author and entertainer Gene Walker has passed away. To a generation of millennials and Gen Xers, Wilder was the original Willy Wonka (sorry Johnny, but it's true) bringing delight to millions of children, but beyond that he was also a respected comedic legend. He died from complications with Alzheimer's disease at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman released this statement:
"He was eighty-three and passed holding our hands with the same tenderness and love he exhibited as long as I can remember. As our hands clutched and he performed one last breath the music speaker, which was set to random, began to blare out one of his favourites: Ella Fitzgerald. There is a picture of he and Ella meeting at a London Bistro some years ago that are among each or cherished possessions. She was singing 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow', as he was taken away."
In the full statement, which you can read below, his family explain why Wilder chose to keep his medical condition a secret from fans.
Here's the full statement from Gene Wilder's family regarding his death: pic.twitter.com/oGv1TsiCX5— Austin Hunt (@AustinHunt) August 29, 2016
Wilder was a veteran of many classic films, and often collaborated with Mel Brooks on films such as Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein. But it’s his role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that he will most fondly be remembered for. In honour of his passing, we leave you with this treasure: