30 Aug 2016

Willy Wonka star Gene Wilder dies

8:20 am on 30 August 2016

US actor Gene Wilder, remembered by many for his namesake role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at the age of 83, his family confirmed.

Wilder's frequent collaborations with writer and director Mel Brooks and stand-up comedian Richard Pryor produced much of his best work.

The comic actor's barely contained hysteria made him a go-to lead for Brooks, who cast him in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and The Producers in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

Besides his classic collaborations with Brooks, Wilder paired memorably with comedian Richard Pryor in hits Silver Streak and Stir Crazy.

The two-time Oscar-nominated actor was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1989.

Wilder was also active in promoting ovarian cancer awareness and treatment after his wife, Saturday Night Live comedienne Gilda Radner, whom he married in 1984, died of the disease in 1989.

The family's statement said Wilder died of complications from Alzheimer's disease, which he had had for the past three years.

His nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, said the actor had chosen to keep his Alzheimer's secret so that children who knew him as Willy Wonka would not equate the whimsical character with an adult disease.

Gene Wilder, left, with Zero Mostel in The Producers (1967).

Gene Wilder, left, with Zero Mostel in The Producers (1967) Photo: AFP / Kobal / The Picture Desk

- Reuters / BBC