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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Charlie Actor Mourns Gene Wilder

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Celebrities have been paying tribute to Gene Wilder since his family announced Monday that he died earlier this month following complications from Alzheimer’s disease, but on Tuesday morning, the actor who starred opposite Wilder in what is widely considered his most iconic film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, expressed his sorrow over the beloved comedian’s passing.

In an interview with Variety, Peter Ostrum — who played Charlie Bucket in the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic — spoke about how much Wilder meant to him. “It’s kind of like losing a parent,” he 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.'”

Willy Wonka was Ostrum’s first and only movie role — as he chose to pursue a career in veterinary medicine — but he told Variety he still remembers how special it felt to be on set with Wilder. “He was a gentle man, but he was also a gentleman. He treated people with respect and dignity,” he said. “He was so quirky. 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.”

Read more at Variety.com.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com