It is a sad day in Hollywood today, with the news that legendary comic actor Gene Wilder has passed away at the age of 83. The beloved star of Blazing Saddles (1974) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) is said to have died from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease, at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. A man who gave his all to everything he did, bringing smiles to the faces of even the most stoic among us, Wilder will be greatly missed. There is no greater legacy to leave than his charm, warmth and heart, all of which will live on for generations to come. Sadly, Wilder joins a long list of notable artists, actors and athletes who the wider world has lost this year, including Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Anton Yelchin, Harper Lee, Prince, Muhammed Ali and Garry Marshall.
Seemingly destined for stardom, Wilder started his career on stage and television, before breaking out in Arthur Penn’s legendary picture Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and regular co-conspirator Mel Brooks’ crazed film The Producers (1967). From there the roles came thick and fast, thanks to his daring, offbeat physical comedy, with iconic performances in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (1974). Continuing to hone his craft he also notched up a few directing nods too, with The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), The World’s Greatest Lover (1977), The Woman in Red (1984) and Haunted Honeymoon (1986). Following the passing of his wife Gilda Radner, he took a step away from the spotlight, but he never disappeared entirely, making guest appearances and forever encompassing the lovable maestro of Dahl’s definitive novel.
Upon the announcement of his death today, Wilder’s nephew made a statement on behalf of the family, which read in part; ‘The decisions 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 exposed to an adult referencing illness or cause delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.’ Well, Mr Wilder, thank-you for leaving us in a world of pure imagination. Here’s hoping you found the same.
It is with great sadness that much of the world woke today to the heartbreaking news that Anton Yelchin had passed. The actor, best known for his work in the rebooted Star Trek (2009) franchise, was tragically killed in a freak motor vehicle accident in his Studio City home, at the young age of 27. He has been remembered as a kind, compassionate and giving soul, who touched the lives of many. Yelchin was born in Russia to Soviet figure skaters, who immigrated to America looking to give their son a better life. The acclaimed actor got his first big break in the film The Man is Mostly Water (2000), before going on to star in 65 other credits, including Alpha Dog (2006), Charlie Bartlett (2007), Star Trek (2009), Terminator Salvation (2009), Like Crazy (2011), Fright Night (2011), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and Green Room (2015). At the time of his death Yelchin still had five films listed as either completed, in post-production, or in pre-production, including next month's Star Trek Beyond (2016).
A statement from the LAPD regarding the incident said: 'A fatal traffic collision happened in Studio City. On Sunday, June 19 at 1:10 in the morning, a fatal traffic collision occurred. It was the result of the victim’s own car rolling backwards down his steep driveway, pinning him against a brick mailbox pillar and security fence. The victim was on his way to meet his friends for a rehearsal. When he didn’t show up, his friends went to his house, where they found him deceased by his car. It appeared he had momentarily exited his car leaving it in the driveway in neutral.'
Tributes from Yelchin's many friends flooded social media in the wake of his death, with Paramount, the studio he worked under regarding the Star Trek series stating; 'All of us at Paramount join the world in morning the untimely passing of Antony Yelchin. As a member of the Star Trek family, he was beloved by so many and he will missed by all. We share our deepest condolences with his mother, father and family.' Original franchise director JJ Abrams also took to Twitter, posting his thoughts in a handwritten letter on his Bad Robot production company page. 'Anton - You were brilliant. You were kind. You were funny as hell, and supremely talented. And you weren't here nearly long enough. Missing you - JJ.' While many have been left devastated and numb by today's news, there has also been a celebratory tone of the actor's array of achievements. Best friend, thoughtful, gifted, generous, passionate, courageous, talented, wise, and humble, are all words since attributed to him.
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