The death of Gene Wilder has movie lovers in mourning, but his Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory co-star Peter Ostrum says he feels like he lost a family member. In an interview with Variety, Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in the classic 1971 film, said he hadn’t seen his late co-star since they worked together in the early 1970s, but he feels a profound loss over the news of his death.
“It’s kind of like losing a parent,” Ostrum 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.'”
Peter Ostrum praised Wilder and his late Wonka co-star Jack Albertson, who played Grandpa Joe in the movie, for showing him the ropes when he was a child actor.
“To have made one film and to be associated with Jack and Gene, I feel like I really found the golden ticket,” Peter said.
News of the 83-year-old actor’s death rocked Hollywood, but one nostalgic movie fan took things a step further by updating the Wikipedia page of Peter Ostrum. After the movie legend’s death was announced by his family, Peter Ostrum’s Wikipedia age was temporarily edited to say that he “inherited a chocolate factory” on August 28. In the famous movie, Ostrum’s character is promised the iconic chocolate factory by the mysterious candy man, Willy Wonka, played by Wilder.
While the news of Gene Wilder’s death is sad for all movie lovers, fans had fun joking that Peter Ostrum is about to receive a big inheritance.
While Peter Ostrum was on the path to a promising career as a child actor, he turned down a three-movie deal after Willy Wonka wrapped. In fact, Peter never made a movie again. Instead, Ostrum went on to graduate from Cornell University. In an update on Oprah: Where Are They Now, Peter Ostrum revealed that he is now working as a large-animal veterinarian, specializing in cattle and horses.
Ostrum revealed that casting directors had a call in Cleveland, where he lived as a child and dabbled in children’s theater. Peter attributed his luck in landing the role as being “in the right place at the right time.”
“We captured lightning in a bottle. For whatever reason, the film worked,” Peter said.
“After the film, I always denied my involvement with Willy Wonka,” Ostrum added. “I didn’t really want to have anything to do with it… [Show business] really wasn’t for me.”
In a 2014 interview with UK Express, Peter Ostrum said it didn’t take him long to realize that “acting was a lot of work,” but that he made lifelong memories — and friendships — from the experience.
“I had a genuine grandfather-grandson type relationship with Jack Albertson, who played Grandpa Joe. I also had a good relationship with Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka. I think that came through on the camera,” Ostrum said.
“I haven’t seen Gene in years but I’ve remained close with the other kids and we have enjoyed so many reunions over the years. We all share a special bond and today it’s as if they are family.”
In addition to Peter Ostrum, Willy Wonka featured child actors Michael Bollner who played Augustus Gloop, Denise Nickerson as Violet Beauregarde, Paris Themmen as Mike Teevee, and Julie Dawn Cole as Veruca Salt. In addition to Peter Ostrum Wonka co-stars Julie Dawn Cole and Denise Nickerson, posted remembrances of Wilder him on social media.
In an interview with ITV, Julie Dawn Cole, who played spoiled rich girl Veruca Salt in the beloved 1971 film, said she first met Wilder in Munich before filming of Willy Wonka and that he was “lovely man.”
“Gene was such a lovely man. He was kind, he was patient, he was a delight. It’s hugely sad news,” Cole said.
“He probably was not quite as crazy as you’d imagine. He was an ordinary, kind of quiet, kind man. Always entertaining, always with a smile, never being grand – there was no big ego. He was so patient with us kids! I was out on the movie for three months, and I didn’t have any family with me. He used to sit and tell me stories, and just a very, very kind person. Always generous. Always helping you to get your moment. He was never greedy.”
Take a look at the video below to see Peter Ostrum’s character being promised the famous factory at the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]