Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, mourned his late co-star Gene Wilder in an interview with Variety.
“It’s kind of like losing a parent,” he said. “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.'”
Wilder died Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, which he kept from the public until after his death. He was 83.
While Ostrum had not seen Wilder since making Willy Wonka, he remembered the veteran actor as private, but also warm and friendly. As production went on, Ostrum remembered, “They would break for lunch and Gene and I would always buy a chocolate bar and share it on the way back to the set.”
Ostrum also recalled Wilder’s penchant for surprise, encapsulated in two of Willy Wonka‘s most memorable scenes: The first, the candy magnate’s hobbled entrance and unexpected somersault upon meeting the golden ticket winners; and second, the intense, haunting speech he delivers as they travel down the chocolate river. Ostrum said Wilder didn’t tell any of the other actors about his plans for the pratfall, or his devilish delivery.
“He was so quirky,” Ostrum said. “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.”
While Ostrum never starred in another movie, ultimately becoming a veterinarian, he praised Wilder and co-star Jack Albertson, who played Grandpa Joe, for teaching him so much about acting. “To have made one film and to be associated with Jack and Gene, I feel like I really found the golden ticket,” he said.
Gene Wilder, ‘Willy Wonka’ and ‘Young Frankenstein’ star, has died at the age of 83. Watch here.