Legendary comedic actor Gene Wilder died today at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, multiple news outlets have reported.
The iconic actor, best known for his portrayal of the titular role in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” died surrounded by family at his home in Stamford, Conn., according to a statement from his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, published via Twitter.
News of his death comes with the revelation that the actor was among one of the roughly 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. He had been living with the illness for the past three years, according to his nephew.
Walker-Pearlman shared in the statement that his uncle’s decision not to reveal his illness publicly “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.”
Despite having Alzheimer’s, Wilder was still able to enjoy “art, music and kissing with his leading lady of the last 25 years,” his nephew wrote.
Mel Brooks, who directed Wilder in starring roles in his films “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles” and “The Producers,” was among numerous celebrities who took to Twitter today to pay tribute to the actor.
“Gene Wilder – one of the truly great talents of our time,” read a statement on Brooks’s verified Twitter account. “He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.”