Denise Nickerson, the former child actress who played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 62.
Nickerson’s family announced the news in a Facebook post that read: “She’s gone.”
In earlier updates on social media, her family said she had pneumonia and had experienced several seizures.
Nickerson – who was cast opposite Gene Wilder at the age of 13 – had previously survived a stroke in 2018.
On Tuesday, her family made a GoFundMe page to help cover her medical costs. Prior to her death, they said she had been given morphine “to keep her pain free and slow her breathing”.
They wrote: “She has random and semi-frequent seizures, but their intensity has grown far less severe as the day has progressed. Things have been relatively quiet and peaceful all day.
“We’ve had visitors to share fond memories, say their goodbyes, lift our spirits, and support us. We’ve taken turns resting, and crying, and coping, and back again.”
Born in New York City in 1957, Nickerson’s first TV roles were on the gothic US soap opera Dark Shadows as Amy Jennings and Nora Collins.
In 1971, she was cast in composer John Barry’s ill-fated musical Lolita, My Love before landing her signature role as gum-chewing brat Violet Beauregarde in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
In the hit movie, her character loses out on winning the factory after she is unable to resist a chewing gum meal that turns her into a giant blueberry.
Following Wilder’s death in 2016, Nickerson said: “He was such a kind, tender-hearted man. And for him to put up with us, my God what patience he must’ve needed for five of us running around.”
In a statement to Fox News, actress Julie Dawn Cole, who played the spoilt Veruca Salt said: “It is dreadfully sad.
“Denise has been like a sister to me and we were very close. She had a massive stroke last July and never really recovered. Paris [Themmen] (who played Mike Teevee) and I went to visit her in September. It was a very sad visit as she couldn’t verbally communicate. But we sang songs – ‘Willy Wonka’ of course! And that made her smile and laugh.”
Nickerson’s other roles included Liza Walton on the CBS soap Search for Tomorrow; in The Man Who Could Talk to Kids, opposite Peter Boyle; and in beauty pageant satire Smile.
She went into semi-retirement as an actress at the age of 21, acting sporadically and working in doctor’s offices as a receptionist and an accountant.
Nickerson was married twice. Her first marriage to Rick Keller ended with his death from a brain aneurysm in 1983. She had a son Josh with her second husband Mark Willard, who she divorced in 1998.