Peter Ostrum, the actor who played Charlie Buckett in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has spoken about the loss of his late co-star Gene Wilder.
In an interview with Variety, Ostrum said that Wilder’s death was “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.'”
Wilder died on Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.
Willy Wonka was Ostrum’s first and only film, he went on to become a veterinarian.
Although he had not seen Wilder since, Ostrum fondly recalled working with the star.
“He was so quirky,” said Ostrum. “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.”
Wilder notably improvised two key scenes in the movie: the first when Willy Wonka feigns a limp when making his entrance before surprising onlookers with a graceful somersault.
His second addition was during the film’s trippy boat ride down a chocolate river in which the actor chants a creepy verse that he thought up himself.
While Ostrum might have long left the movie business, he still affectionately describes the time spent with Wilder as educational.
“To have made one film and to be associated with Jack and Gene, I feel like I really found the golden ticket,” he said.