‘Willy Wonka’ actor Gene Wilder dead at 83

Courtesy: CNN

Courtesy: CNN

Gene Wilder, who brought a wild-eyed desperation to a series of memorable and iconic comedy roles in the 1970s and 1980s, has died, his lawyer, Eric Weissmann, said.

NEW YORK - MARCH 26: Actor Gene Wilder appears at Barnes & Noble to sign copies of his book "The Woman Who Wouldn't" on March 26, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – MARCH 26: Actor Gene Wilder appears at Barnes & Noble to sign copies of his book “The Woman Who Wouldn’t” on March 26, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

He was 83.

Wilder is best known for his collaborations with director Mel Brooks, starring as the stressed-out Leo Bloom in Brooks’ breakout 1967 film “The Producers” and later in the monster movie spoof “Young Frankenstein.” He also portrayed a boozing gunslinger in “Blazing Saddles.”

But for many people, Wilder might be best remembered for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” playing the mysterious candy tycoon in the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book.

Wilder continued to star in numerous comedies, with less consistent success. That included a pair of films with Richard Pryor, “Stir Crazy” and “Silver Streak,” as well as solo vehicles like “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” and “The World’s Greatest Lover,” which he also directed.

In a 2005 interview with CNN, Wilder discussed how he met Brooks, having been cast in a play opposite the director’s then-girlfriend, Anne Bancroft.

“That led to ‘The Producers’ and ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Young Frankenstein,’ but because I was miscast in a play,” Wilder said. “And it changed my life.”