The news of Gene Wilder's passing saddened the public on Aug. 29 as the man who many knew as the visionary chocolatier Willy Wonka died from complications of Alzheimer's Disease at 83 years old, Variety reports. The last time we saw Wilder's signature sense of humor on screen was over a decade ago with his Emmy Award-winning guest appearance on two episodes of Will & Grace in 2003, but Gene Wilder's last project came more than a decade later when, in 2015, he lent his voice to a grumpy alien named Elmer in an episode of the children's series Yo Gabba Gabba!.
Wilder had always been crystal clear that it would take something really special to get him to come out of his retirement from screen acting — like a new Mel Brooks movie, of which he starred in three. In a 2008 episode of the Turner Classic Movies series Role Models, Wilder said in an interview "I don't like show business, I realized... I like show, but I don't like the business." But recently, rumors had been swirling that Wilder might get back in the game to play Wonka-esque gaming magnate James Halliday in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Ready Player One.
Since his appearance on Will & Grace, Wilder narrated a documentary (on Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition) and wrote five books including a collection of short stories, three novels, and a memoir. His most recent book, released in April of 2013, is a romantic novella set in World War II London called Something To Remember You By: A Perilous Romance. Three years ago, Wilder, already a cancer survivor, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease but chose to keep his condition private as he did not want to trouble anyone. According to a statement from his nephew, Wilder's disease never caused him to forget family and close friends, nor did it take control of his personality.
Wilder joins the long list of iconic personalities from Muhammad Ali to Prince, whose lives have come to an end this calendar year.
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