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Gene Wilder 'the father figure of our family', says Veruca Salt actress

Published 30/08/2016

Publicity photo of Gene Wilder for film Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), also known as Two Times Two
Publicity photo of Gene Wilder for film Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), also known as Two Times Two
Actor Gene Wilder, known for his roles in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and many other films, died of complications from Alzheimers disease August 29, 2016 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 83. London June 07: Actor Gene Wilder poses as he signs copies of his autobiography "Kiss Me Like A Stranger", at Waterstone's, Oxford Street on June 7, 2005 in London, England. The memoirs give an insight into Wilder's failed love life, his experiences of working with stars such as Richard Pryor and Woody Allen, his fight with, and victory over, cancer, and his time in the UK studying acting at the Bristol Old Vic. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)
FILE - AUGUST 29: Actor Gene Wilder, known for his roles in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and many other films, died of complications from Alzheimers disease August 29, 2016 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 83. NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 05: Gene Wilder and his wife Karen Boyer watch as Shahar Peer of Israel takes on Anna Chakvetadze of Russia during day ten of the 2007 U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 5, 2007 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
File photo dated 02/10/1996 of Gene Wilder as Max Prince during rehearsals for Neil Simon's "Laughter of the 23rd Floor", at Queen's Theatre in London as the actor has died aged 83, his family said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 29, 2016. See PA story DEATH Wilder. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 07/06/2005 of actor Gene Wilder who has has died aged 83, his family said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 29, 2016. See PA story DEATH Wilder. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
File photo dated 06/06/1996 of actor Gene Wilder who has has died aged 83, his family said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 29, 2016. See PA story DEATH Wilder. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire
File photo dated 06/06/2005 of actor Gene Wilder who has has died aged 83, his family said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 29, 2016. See PA story DEATH Wilder. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire
(FILES) This file photo taken on September 07, 2013 shows actor Gene Wilder watching Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic play against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka during their 2013 US Open men's semifinals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Hollywood star Gene Wilder, who delighted audiences with his comic turns in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and several Mel Brooks classics including "Blazing Saddles" and "The Producers," died August 29, 2016 at age 83, Variety magazine reported. The weekly trade journal quoted his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman as saying the actor died of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home in Connecticut. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNANDEMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This file photo taken on September 7, 1984 shows US actor and director Gene Wilder poses with his wife Gilda Radner, during the 10th American Film Festival of Deauville. Hollywood star Gene Wilder, who delighted audiences with his comic turns in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and several Mel Brooks classics including "Blazing Saddles" and "The Producers," died August 29, 2016 at age 83, Variety magazine reported. The weekly trade journal quoted his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman as saying the actor died of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home in Connecticut. / AFP PHOTO / Mychele DANIAUMYCHELE DANIAU/AFP/Getty Images
FILE - AUGUST 29: Actor Gene Wilder, known for his roles in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and many other films, died of complications from Alzheimers disease August 29, 2016 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 83. NEW YORK - MARCH 15: Gene Wilder signs a copy of his new book "My French Whore" at Barnes & Noble, March 15, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
FILE - In this March 16, 2005 file photo, actor Gene Wilder speaks about his life and career at Boston University in Boston. Wilder, who starred in such film classics as "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Young Frankenstein" has died. He was 83. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - AUGUST 29: Actor Gene Wilder, known for his roles in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and many other films, died of complications from Alzheimers disease August 29, 2016 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 83. WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 17: Actor and author Gene Wilder autographs copies of his new book 'The Woman Who Wouldn't' at Barnes & Noble Bookstore at The Grove on March 17, 2008 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)
(FILES) This file photo taken on September 7, 1984 shows US actor and director Gene Wilder of the movie "The Woman in Red" during the 10th American Film Festival of Deauville. Hollywood star Gene Wilder, who delighted audiences with his comic turns in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and several Mel Brooks classics including "Blazing Saddles" and "The Producers," died August 29, 2016 at age 83, Variety magazine reported. The weekly trade journal quoted his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman as saying the actor died of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home in Connecticut. / AFP PHOTO / Mychele DANIAUMYCHELE DANIAU/AFP/Getty Images

Gene Wilder was the "father figure" of the Willy Wonka family, according to the actress who played spoiled child Veruca Salt in the hit film.

Julie Dawn Cole, who is originally from Guildford but now lives in Hampshire, played the young girl everyone loves to hate in the movie that Wilder may be most remembered for.

The 1971 film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, which brings Roald Dahl's novel to life, follows lovable Charlie who clinches a golden ticket to gain access to the enchanting factory - and is joined by other lucky children including the pampered Veruca Salt.

Actress Cole said she and the other Willy Wonka "kids" - the actors who played the children in the film - had received a message from Wilder around a year or so ago in which he sent "lots of love".

She told the Press Association: "We knew that Gene wasn't in great health but he's a very private man, very dignified, so it's not entirely a surprise, but it's still a very, very sad day."

Cole, who was 12 when the movie was filmed, said she and her Wonka co-stars keep in touch and see each other at least once a year.

"We're all very, very sad. He was very much the father figure of our family," she said.

Remembering Wilder from his Wonka days, Cole said: "I think people think that he'd be kind of crazy and leaping around, but no, he was just quiet, but gently funny and patient.

"I think that's the thing that I admire him for, because when you've got five kids on a movie set it can't be easy, all bouncing around, especially with all that sugar.

"And he was very patient. We were never ever told 'Please leave Mr Wilder alone' or 'Mr Wilder is off to his trailer'."

She said Wilder, with "those wonderful blue eyes" was "great to be around" and "very generous", adding: "He was always keen for other people to have their moment, and really for somebody so... such a mega star, no ego, there was no ego there."

Reflecting on the success of Wilder's portrayal of the famous candy man, Cole said: "The genius of it. You never quite know whether Mr Wonka is crazy, good, bad, evil. You never quite know what he is."

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