Jerome Silberman, known professionally as Gene Wilder has died.
Gene Wilder, an American stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author, died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83 years old.
According to Wilder’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, the actor had chosen to keep his illness secret so that children who knew him as Willy Wonka would not equate the whimsical character with an adult disease.
Wilder began his career on stage, and made his screen debut in the TV series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962.
Although his first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder’s first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film ‘The Producers’, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
This was the first in a series of collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which Wilder co-wrote, garnering the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Wilder is known for his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Wilder directed and wrote several of his own films, including The Woman in Red (1984).