The late actor, who died from complications from Alzheimer's disease on Sunday (28Aug16), at the age of 83, is known to people around the world as fictional chocolate factory owner Wonka. His portrayal of the eccentric confectionery boss in the 1971 movie, based on Roald Dahl's famous novel, cemented his place in cinema history, and U.S. talk show host James Corden wanted to emulate the movie when he first took over The Late Late Show in 2015.

After meeting Gene backstage while on Broadway, the pair exchanged emails and James asked the movie icon if he'd join him in the sketch, depicting the Brit landing the presenting job by winning a golden ticket. While Gene wasn't keen to take part, his message still managed to make the 38-year-old Into the Woods star smile.

"(The email read), 'Dearest James, I don't do or go where you were hoping, but I'll be looking for you. With my love, Gene," James shared on his Monday night (29Aug16) show.

"Even the way he said no was so poetic, even his emails sounded somehow like Willy Wonka. The truth of it is, he was just this magical person and he made everybody around him feel this incredible feeling of joy. It's what I felt when I watched him. It's what I felt when I met him."

Celebrities and fans alike have been sharing their sadness at Gene's passing, with his Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory co-stars Julie Dawn Cole, who starred as Veruca, and Denise Nickerson, who played Violet, both commenting on the passing.

"Such very sad news. Words not enough. Treasured memories," posted Julie, while Denise added: "All of us have lost OUR Willy Wonka. Love, Violet".

In a statement released by Gene's family, his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman explained that Gene passed away as one of his favourite songs, Ella Fitzgerald's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, started to play.

Jordan ended the announcement with a line from Gene's most famous film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."