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I don't want it to come out funny, but I don't like show business. I love acting in films

For many people, Gene Wilder was Willy Wonka, capturing perfectly both the child-like sense of mischief but also the slightly sinister unpredictability of Roald Dahl’s famous eccentric chocolate manufacturer. But Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was just one of Wilder’s many comic film roles.

Known for his unusual appearance, wide eyes, frazzled hair and his comic tendency to veer between gentleness one minute and apparent hysteria the next, Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee. After a period of drama training in England as well as a less predictable stint assisting electric shock treatments for psychiatric patients in the US army, he soon found success on the stage and screen working with the director Mel Brooks in the films The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Later, he formed a winning onscreen partnership with stand-up, Richard Pryor.

A gentle person in real life, Wilder married four times. He had first began performing as a child to help entertain his mother, aiding her slow recovery after a heart attack. He had initially wanted to be a straight actor. But it is for his comedy that he will always be remembered.