Blazing Saddles and Willy Wonka star Gene Wilder dies aged 83

Gene Wilder, star of hit films like The Producers, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Blazing Saddles, has died at the age of 83.

The comic actor passed away earlier today having suffered complications from a private battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

His screen career began in the early 1960s when he starred in various television programmes. His cinematic debut was to come in 1967 when he appeared in the acclaimed crime drama Bonnie and Clyde playing the role of kidnapped driver Eugene Grizzard.

That same year saw him showcase his potential as a comedy talent when he starred in the Mel Brooks musical The Producers. His performance as fearful accountant Leo Bloom was to earn him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

However perhaps his most iconic role was to come in 1971 when he played charismatic factory owner Willy Wonka in the beloved family musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Adapted from Roald Dahl’s popular novel, the film was a big hit with audiences despite it being criticised by Dahl himself.

After then appearing in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Wilder then collaborated with Mel Brooks again for two more films in 1974.

The first of those was as the renowned gunslinger The Waco Kid in the un-PC western Blazing Saddles. His second saw him play Dr. Frankenstein in the comic-horror Young Frankenstein for which he would receive his second Oscar nomination for co-writing the script.

Wilder then began a new collaboration with stand-up comedian Richard Pryor as the pair worked on multiple comedies over the next decade including Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), Hanky Panky (1982) and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989).

He also had a hand in directing (and starring) in the likes of The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), The World’s Greatest Lover (1977) and the Oscar-winning rom-com The Woman in Red (1984). The latter film was famed for its use of the hit Stevie Wonder song “I Just Called To Say I Love You”.

In his later years, Wilder mostly worked on writing novels and appearing in television films. He did go on to win an Emmy award for playing Will Truman’s eccentric boss Mr. Stein in the hit series Will & Grace.

Wilder is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer and filmmaker nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman.

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