Remembering Gene Wilder: Big Stars and the Willy Wonka Kids Remember the Legend

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Beloved actor Gene Wilder passed away peacefully on Monday, August 29, 2016. He was surrounded by family and friends while “Somewhere in the Rainbow” as performed by Ella Fitzgerald played on the radio.


The 83-year-old star had been secretly battling Alzheimer’s disease for a few years before he passed away. Since his unfortunate passing, the biggest stars around the world have been paying tribute to Gene.

Mel Brooks tweeted, “Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.” Albert Brooks also paid tribute to him, calling him “as funny as they come”.

The tributes also got incredible personal as Olivia Wilde sweetly thanked Gene for stopping by Earth for a while. Russell Crowe reminisced about going to see Blazing Saddles many times at the theater in his youth. Kevin Smith called Gene the face of childhood joy for many a generation. Lori Petty, known for her star turn in A League of Their Own, called Gene an icon and a sweetheart.

It wasn’t only big stars who were singing the praises of Gene Wilder, either. The child actors who starred alongside the revered actor in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory took to Twitter to praise him and pay homage to him after his passing.


Denise Nickerson, who played the competitive, gum-smacking Violet Beauregarde, said of Gene: “You were so talented and kindhearted. You will be sorely missed by so many. All of us have lost OUR Willy Wonka. Love, Violet”. Meanwhile, Julia Dawn Cole, who played the ultimate brat Veruca Salt, tweeted about how the news was very sad, and words were not enough. She stated that she had wonderful memories of him.

Gene Wilder is also fondly remembered for his romance with Gilda Radner. The couple became iconic and forever together in the public’s mind. Their good pal Carl Reiner spoke to People after Gene’s passing about why the Gilda and Gene romance was so memorable. He remembered how happy they were together, with Gilda declaring that she was as happy as she would ever be with Gene shortly before her passing. Gilda died from ovarian cancer in 1989, leaving Gene a widow.
Many people posted about how Gilda and Gene were now together again after he passed away. Helen Rosner tweeted, “The way Gene Wilder talked about Gilda helped me, as a kid, start to understand the depth and intensity and sorrow of grown-up love.”

Although there is much fanfare for the beautiful relationship between Gilda and Gene, he has been married for 25 years at the time of his death to Karen Boyer. When they were photographed, they almost always looked deeply in love, and Gene talked about how he was happier than he had ever been with Karen. She stayed by his side during his final illness.
Perhaps what would have been most moving to Gene is the loving tribute from his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman, who released a somewhat lengthy, very touching tribute on Gene’s death and the way he lived his life. Jordan revealed that, in Gene’s final days, he kept enjoying art, music, western movie marathons, kissing his wife, and the company of other loved ones.

No funeral or memorial service has been publicly announced for Gene Wilder, but the tributes are likely to continue to flood in from stars, friends, family members, and fans alike.