As you have probably heard by now, the great actor Gene Wilder tragically passed away on August 29th, due to complications with Alzheimer’s Disease -an illness the actor kept hidden from the public.
When you think of Gene Wilder, you think of his incredible performances in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Young Frankenstein.
They’re films we will always remember and will continue to watch for years to come. Films that will make you laugh and that you will never get bored of.
But despite being such a popular actor, there are many things you still don’t know about the iconic actor…
1. His Real Name Is Jerome Silberman
He took Gene Wilder as a stage name when he was 26. He explained: “I had always liked Gene because of Thomas Wolfe’s character Eugene Gant in Look Homeward. And I was always a great admirer of Thornton Wilder.”
2. He Decided He Wanted To Be An Actor At 8 Years Old
It was after his mother was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and the doctor told him to “try and make her laugh”.
3. His First Performance Was In Romeo And Juliet
He played Balthasar at 15 years old.
4. He Won An All-School Fencing Championship In College
He had only studied fencing for six months.
5. Gene Was Raised Jewish
But in 2005, described himself as a “Jewish-Buddhist-Atheist”.
6. He Auditioned For The Role Of Willy Wonka In 1971
He didn’t actually know if he wanted the role, but after the director chased him after his audition, he decided to accept it.
7. The Scene In Willy Wonka When The Children Are Introduced To The Chocolate Factory Owner Was Gene’s Idea
He decided before shooting what he wanted to be included in the film. From the cane to the limp and the somersault – it was all Gene’s idea.
8. He Was Married Four Times
To Karen Boyer, Gilda Radner, Mary Joan Schutz and Mary Mercier.
9. He Adopted The Daughter Of His Second Wife
Gene and Mary were still just dating when her daughter began to call him dad. In 1967 he decided to adopt her and she is actually his only child.
10. He Lost His Wife Gilda Radner To Ovarian Cancer
He dedicated part of his life to raising awareness about the disease and co-founded the support group, Gilda’s club.
11. He Quit Acting In 2003
And went onto release several books, including a memoir and short stories.
12. He Was Diagnosed With Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Earlier In His Life
Thankfully, he made a full recovery in 2000.
13. Wilder Disliked Burton’s Remake Of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
“The thing that put me off … I like Johnny Depp, I like him, as an actor I like him very much … but when I saw little pieces in the promotion of what he was doing, I said I don’t want to see the film, because I don’t want to be disappointed in him.” In 2013, Wilder called the film “an insult”.
14. He Didn’t Want To Reveal His Illness Before His Death
Gene’s nephew explained that “The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition 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, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
15. Gene Wilder Died At The Age of 83
At his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. RIP.