Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, mourned his former costar Gene Wilder in a new interview just one day after the legendary actor’s death.
“It’s kind of like losing a parent,” Ostrum, who hadn’t seen Wilder since filming Wonka in 1971, told Variety on Tuesday, August 30. “You know it’s going to happen, but it’s still a shock. He was not in good health at the end and it was not unexpected by any means, but when it happens, it hits you like, ‘Gene is gone and there will never be anyone like him again.’ He was a gentle man, but he was also a gentleman. He treated people with respect and dignity.”
As previously reported, Wilder died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease — which he secretly battled for three years — at age 83 on Monday, August 29.
“He was so quirky,” Ostrum, 58, continued. “You never knew what to expect from Gene. He never let on how he was going to read a line or convey an expression. That’s why the film works, because he made Wonka so unpredictable.”
In between takes on Wonka, the former child actor says he and Wilder shared a fitting tradition: “[We] would always buy a chocolate bar and share it on the way back to the set.”
Although Ostrum never starred in another film after Wonka (he became a veterinarian instead), he says he still cherishes the memories he shared with the veteran actor and their costar Jack Albertson, who played Grandpa Joe.
“To have made one film and to be associated with Jack and Gene, I feel like I really found the golden ticket,” he said.
Wilder was also known for his collaborative work with Mel Brooks, including fan favorites The Producers and Young Frankenstein.
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