In true 2016 fashion, another legend bids the world goodbye.  If you have ever wanted to reply condescendingly to a comment on Facebook, you most likely have a folder choke full of Willy Wonka memes. Gene Wilder, the iconic comedy stalwart passed away at the ripe age of 83 from Alzheimer’s.

In recent years, Mr. Wilder has only made select public appearances, but his disease was a secret. He didn’t lead his life in the limelight so away from his iconic movie roles; he was extremely private yet remained a force with which to reckon. Here are a few facts you didn’t know about the great Wilder.


The performance bug bit Gene early, with him taking an interest in performing arts at a very young age. As his number one fan, his mother sent him to a school in Hollywood where on account of being bullied, he only enjoyed- not really- a short stint.

Instead of his real name, Jerome Silberman, he opted to use a stage name, Gene Wilder, derived from the names of actors in movies he had watched.  Drawing inspiration from a doctor’s words when his mother was diagnosed with Rheumatism, he set his sights on being a credible comedy star, and he lived true to that dream.

Drugs perhaps

Some of Gene’s roles had a major redirection due to drugs. Mel Brooks gave him the coveted part of Waco Kid in the cinematic classic, Blazing Saddles due to a previous actor’s replacement having an issue with drugs. He was supposed to team up with the great Richard Pryor in yet another comedic gem, Trading places but Pryor got cut out because of his drug use. However, he and Pryor reunited in the lukewarm, action thriller See No Evil, Hear No Evil.

The remake of Willy Wonka

Gene intimated that he respected the acting chops of versatility itself, Johnny Depp. However, he said that to keep that respect; he was not going to watch Depp’s portrayal as Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as he found it ‘insulting.’ 

Alzheimer’s and smiles

Gene Wilder oozes class, this man. He had been suffering from the disease for a while but in the interest of wanting the Willy Wonka image to associate with chocolate rather than Alzheimer’s, he chose to keep that secret to himself. Everyone who watched him in the role truly salutes that gesture.