"We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality," his nephew said of Wilder, who had also been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1989, in a statement. "The decision 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 then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
"He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones."
Wilder is best known for his work with Mel Brooks, in which he typically played the delightfully neurotic leading man. His first major role was as Leopold Bloom in The Producers, which earned Wilder an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. The duo continued their fruitful collaborations with Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which Wilder co-wrote, earning both him and Brooks Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay.
Wilder is also famous for his portrayal of the eccentric Willy Wonka in 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, as well as his work with Richard Pryor, which included Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, Another You and See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
The actor did little work on television, although in 1994 he launched his short-lived family sitcom Something Wilder, which ran for only one season. He also made his last appearance onscreen when he guest-starred on Will & Grace, for which Wilder won an Emmy in 2003.
Following the death of his third wife, Saturday Night Live's Gilda Radner, in 1989 from ovarian cancer, Wilder acted only rarely. However, he found success as a writer, publishing a memoir in 2005 and various works of fiction.
Wilder is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer and his nephew.