I come bearing sad news: The Associated Press reports that actor Gene Wilder has died at the age of 83. His nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, said Wilder passed away due to complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Here's the full statement:
“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — 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. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.”
Wilder appeared in only 37 film and television projects from 1961-2015, but he'll have a lasting impact in cinematic history. Aside from his iconic role in 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (a truly memorable part in which he showed astonishing range, from mischievous fun to tremendous sadness), the two-time Oscar nominee was best known for his collaborations with Mel Brooks, starring in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and The Producers. Those first two are among the greatest comedies ever made, so even if Wilder had appeared in those and those alone, his place in film history would be assured. If we have younger readers who haven't seen those movies, I can't recommend them highly enough.
Last year, there were rumors that Steven Spielberg was trying to coax Wilder out of retirement to star in either The BFG or Ready Player One, but sadly that didn't end up happening.
Rest in peace, Mr. Wilder. You will be sorely missed.