Those who knew Gene Wilder are struggling to process his death.
On Monday, the icon passed away at 83 years old due to complications with Alzheimer’s Disease. And on Tuesday, the man who once starred as Charlie alongside the late legend in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is speaking out about the sad loss.
Peter Ostrum opened up to Variety about the acclaimed actor’s passing, admitting that his older costar was almost like a father figure, even though they hadn’t seen each other since production wrapped on their 1971 film:
“It’s kind of like losing a parent. 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.'”
Peter explained he only has fond memories of the Young Frankenstein alum, adding:
“He was a gentle man, but he was also a gentleman. He treated people with respect and dignity.”
After Willy Wonka, the 58-year-old left the entertainment industry to eventually become a veterinarian.
And while he had distanced himself from acting, the Texas native believes Gene’s beloved part as the eccentric candy factory owner wasn’t his favorite:
“My gut feeling is that Willy Wonka wasn’t his favorite role. But that’s the role now that people across the generations remember him for.”
Even still, Mr. Ostrum gushed about how Gene made the character so amazing:
“He was so quirky. 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.”
The movie alum reflected on his time with Gene, as well as late actor Jack Albertson, who played Charlie’s grandfather in the classic film:
“To have made one film and to be associated with Jack and Gene, I feel like I really found the golden ticket.”
Rest in peace, Gene.
[Image via Paramount Pictures.]