Fans of Gene Wilder were saddened to hear of the star’s death following complications linked to Alzheimer’s disease recently.
Star of numerous films, such as Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein, he was probably most famous for his role as the enigmatic Willy Wonka of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame.
Indeed, who can forget his portrayal of the flamboyant chocolate factory owner who invited a group of children to visit him in his world courtesy of an elusive golden ticket?
A true entertainer
While Wilder was probably most famous for his role as the purple-clad Wonka, he was also well known for his collaborations with writer and director Mel Brooks and stand-up comedian Richard Pryor.
He was a genius when it came to natural comedy acting, which made him so entertaining to watch, and he could sing and dance too.
Actor Russell Crowe sent a tweet admitting to having watched Blazing Saddles seven times, a far more fitting accolade than one of his previous tweets back in 2014 when he attacked the boss of his team’s major sponsor, Crown Casino in the NRL final.
Accolades from other Willy Wonka actors
One of the child actors from the Wonka film, Peter Ostrum, who played central character Charlie Bucket was extremely saddened to hear of Wilder’s death, saying that it was almost “like losing a parent. You know it’s going to happen, but it’s still a shock”.
Despite his success in the film, Ostrum didn’t go on to become an actor, but he remembers the days on set in Munich in Germany when the movie was being filmed back in 1971 with great fondness.
Ostrum remembers Wilder as being a very gentle man, who treated everyone on set with dignity and respect. As a 12-year old child, Ostrum had never even set foot on a film set, so Wilder took him under his wing. At lunch times, they’d buy a chocolate bar (not Wonka chocolate we presume) and then share it before heading back to work.
However, he does say that even then Wilder was quirky, and that you never knew what to expect from him. It was difficult to see how he was going to read a line or how he would convey a certain expression. This kept the whole cast and production crew on their toes, but ensured that he brought the character of Wonka to life, portraying him as totally unpredictable and off the wall.
Another Willy Wonka co-star, Rusty Goffe, one of the Oompa Loompas, said that he was ‘one of the nicest, if not THE nicest actor I have ever worked with’, while Julie Dawn Cole who played Veruca Salt said she had treasured memories of working with Wilder.
Tributes from around the world
Following Wilder’s death, tributes poured in from around the world, with some of the most poignant coming from his close friends in the business. Mel Brooks talked about the magic that he brought to the screen, tweeting that he was ‘one of the truly great talents of our time’. Jim Carrey called him ‘one of the funniest and sweetest energies ever to take human form’ and said, ‘if there’s a heaven, he has a golden ticket’.
The film generated lots of offshoots, with Willy Wonka’s slots being one of the most popular online games according to Casino APNET, plus the film was remade in 2005 when equally quirky actor, Johnny Depp took over the leading role.
Wilder died surrounded by his family at the age of 83 in Stamford, Connecticut. Let’s hope that he has a golden ticket for actors’ heaven as he truly deserves it.