Gene Wilder, the star of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory and Mel Brooks comedies, died late Sunday night, his family announced. He was 83.
Wilder passed away at his Samford, Connecticut home after suffering complications from Alzheimer’s disease, his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said in a statement. Wilder and his loved ones chose to keep his diagnosis within the family.
“It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announce the passing of husband, parent, and universal artist Gene Wilder,” Mr Walker-Pearlman said on Monday. “It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him.”
Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee on June 11, 1933. When he was 8-years-old, his mother suffered a heart attack and he began performing comedic skits to keep her entertained.
The frizzy-haired comedian’s career in Hollywood began with a minor role in Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, and the following year, he portrayed his breakout role in The Producers, in which he received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
He also appeared in classics such as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and eventually won an Emmy Award in 2003 for his role in Will & Grace.
Brooks, his longtime friend and collaborator, mourned Wilder after the news let out.
“Gene Wilder is one of the truly great talents of our time,” he wrote on Twitter. “He blessed every film we did with his magic and he blessed me with his friendship.”
Wilder married four times and met his third wife, comedian Gilda Radner, when they co-starred in Hanky Panky back in 1982. After Radner died from ovarian cancer in 1989, Wilder founded the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles. Just 10 years later, Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1999.
He’s survived by his fourth wife Karen, who he married in 1991, and his daughter Katherine from a previous marriage.
Comedians from Margaret Cho to Larry Wilmore and Jim Carey mourned Wilder's death on social media.