This story now
IN Celebrities ON
The Willy Wonka, the Chocolate Factory, and the Blazing Saddles star has passed away at the age of 83. The legendary comic actor, 83, lost his battle with Alzheimer's disease, a battle he kept secret because he did not want to upset his fans and 'couldn't bear the thought of one less smile in the world'.
The much-loved Willy Wonka actor was surrounded by his family at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, when he died.
His nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, revealed the touching final hours of Wilder's life, in which the family gathered for Wilder's favorite meal - a chicken dinner.
Gene Wilder, born Jerome Silberman in 1933, pursued his love of acting after high school, studying theater arts in Iowa.
Wilder's big break came in 1968 when he starred as hapless accountant Leo Bloom in The Producers, a role that earned him another Oscar nomination.
Gene Wilder's dedication to the magic of his most famous character, Willy Wonka, drove him to keep his battle with Alzheimer's disease a secret, his family have confirmed following his sad death.
Wilder's first two marriages ended in divorce. In 1984, he married Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner (pictured together above), who died five years later from cancer. He is survived by his fourth wife, Boyer, who he married in 1991.
Wilder was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago but kept it secret because 'he couldn't stand one less smile in the world' (pictured at the US Open in September 2015)
Wilder (pictured, right, with Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles) kept his battle with Alzheimer's secret as he 'couldn't bear the thought of one less smile in the world.'
Jordan Walker-Pearlman, the "nephew/child" of the legendary actor, wrote the statement to honor the special person in his life.
"It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life live that I announced the passing of husband, parents, and universal artist Gene Wilder, at his home in Stamford Connecticut. It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him."
Wilder's death caused shock waves on Twitter, with longtime friend and colleague Mel Brooks leading the outpouring of grief.
The Wikipedia page for Peter Ostrum, the child actor who played Charlie Bucket, was also briefly edited to say he had inherited the chocolate factory he was promised in the film.
To children the world over, Wilder will forever be remembered as the candy man Willy Wonka.
Wilder will always be remembered for the 'joy and laughter that he brought to the world.'