Hollywood is currently mourning the loss of comedic legend Gene Wilder, who died on 28 August from complications related to Alzheimer's disease at the age of 83. The Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory actor has been out of the limelight for a while and his diagnosis came as a surprise to many.
Director Jordan Walker-Pearlman, Wilder's nephew, announced the news on Monday, stating that The Producers actor was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease three years ago. In a statement on behalf of the family, Pearlman explained that it was his uncle's wish that his health condition be kept a secret.
"It is with indescribably sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announced the passing of husband, parent, and universal artist Gene Wilder, at his home in Stamford Connecticut. It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him," the statement read.
"The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease, with which he co-existed for the last three years," Pearlman informed. "The choice to keep this private was his choice, in talking with us and making a decision as a family. We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones – this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognise those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. It took enough, but not that."
The Visit director went on to explain that it was not out of vanity that the late actor chose not to disclose his condition. "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, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world," he said.
Wilder's nephew recounted how one of the actor's favourite songs by Ella Fitzgerald played at the time of his death. "There is a picture of he and Ella meeting at a London bistro some years ago that are among each our cherished possessions. She was singing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', as he was taken away," Pearlman mentioned, signing off the statement with "Gene's Kid".