Tweeted Jim Carrey: "Gene Wilder was one of the funniest and sweetest energies ever to take a human form. If there's a heaven he has a Golden Ticket."
Cloris Leachman, Wilder's "Young Frankenstein" co-star, tweeted, "Oh, Gene, it's too soon!"
Wilder was close friends with Richard Pryor and their contrasting personas — Wilder uptight, Pryor loose — were ideal for comedy. They co-starred in four films: "Silver Streak," ''Stir Crazy," ''See No Evil, Hear No Evil" and "Another You." And they created several memorable scenes, particularly when Pryor provided Wilder with directions on how to "act black" as they tried to avoid police in "Silver Streak."
But Wilder would insist he was no comedian. He told Robert Osborne in a 2013 interview that it was the biggest misconception about him.
"What a comic, what a funny guy, all that stuff! And I'm not. I'm really not. Except in a comedy in films," Wilder said. "But I make my wife laugh once or twice in the house, but nothing special. But when people see me in a movie and it's funny then they stop and say things to me about 'how funny you were.' But I don't think I'm that funny. I think I can be in the movies."
A Milwaukee native, Wilder was born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933. When he was 6, his mother suffered a heart attack that left her a semi-invalid. He soon began improvising comedy skits to entertain her, the first indication of his future career.
He started taking acting classes at age 12. In 1961, he became a member of Lee Strasberg's prestigious Actor's Studio in Manhattan.
That same year, he made both his off-Broadway and Broadway debuts using the stage name Gene Wilder. He won the Clarence Derwent Award, given to promising newcomers, for the Broadway work in Graham Greene's comedy "The Complaisant Lover."
A key break came in 1963 when he co-starred with Anne Bancroft in Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage," and met Brooks, her future husband.
Brooks cast Wilder in "The Producers" as Leo Bloom, an accountant who discovers the liberating joys of greed and corruption as he and Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) conceive a Broadway flop titled "Springtime For Hitler" and plan to flee with the money raised for the show's production. Wilder's performance received a supporting actor Oscar nod.
Before starring in "The Producers," he had a small role as the hostage of gangsters in the 1967 classic "Bonnie and Clyde." He peaked in the mid-1970s with the twin Brooks hits "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein."
Wilder went on to write several screenplays and direct five features, including "The Woman in Red" and "Haunted Honeymoon," in which he co-starred with his third wife, Gilda Radner. The two met while making the 1982 film "Hanky-Panky" and married in 1984.
After Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989, Wilder spent much of his time after promoting cancer research and opened a support facility for cancer patients. In 1991, he testified before Congress about the need for increased testing for cancer.
That same year, he appeared in his final film role: "Another You" with Pryor.