'Willy Wonka' Star Denise Nickerson Suffers Serious Stroke Leaving Her in the ICU

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory star Denise Nickerson suffered a severe stroke in June that has left her in the ICU

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage. Inset: Wolper/Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory star Denise Nickerson suffered a severe stroke in June that has left her in the ICU.

Her son, Josh Nickerson, and his wife, Jasmine Nickerson, created a Facebook page called “Support for Jasmine and Josh Nickerson” that provides updates on the actress’ health.

Nickerson, 61, is best known for playing the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde opposite Gene Wilder in the 1971 classic.

Her daughter-in-law, Jasmine, shared a Facebook post in late June describing Nickerson’s condition.

“It’s a waiting game. It’s the worst. She’s breathing on her own but they can’t remove the ventilator today because they don’t think she has the strength to cough and not aspirate,” Jasmine wrote.

“And know [sic] we’re faced with do we put her in a nursing home? Does one of us quit and stay with her constantly? We can’t afford to do either. We’ll be homeless,” she continued.

Support for Jasmine and Josh Nickerson/Facebook

“Her heart, her brain, and her lungs all fought against her yesterday. Did we do what she wanted?”

In another post, Jasmine shared Nickerson had a pacemaker inserted but that she was still “at high risk for additional strokes” adding the actress “will likely require 24 hour care for the rest of her life.”

“It’s like waking up in a nightmare, and going to sleep is that same nightmare but I can fly,” Jasmine wrote.

“And I know Denise is in pain and wants us to help but she can’t tell us and I can’t help. I can’t,” she added. “I can’t even help myself.”

Her son Josh played Wilder’s “Pure Imagination” for Nickerson, Jasmine shared in a Facebook post. Besides sharing updates on Nickerson, Jasmine and Josh are also raising money to go toward her recovery.

Denise Nickerson
Photo by Wolper/Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstoc

Nickerson was 13 when she starred in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. She told PEOPLE in August 2016 that she didn’t meet Wilder before filming but was introduced to him while he was in character.

“We met him when we were first doing the factory scenes,” recalls Nickerson. “I remember sitting on the bleachers waiting for him to come out of the [chocolate] factory and rumor had gone around set that he was going to do the somersault – and he did and we all clapped. We got to know him a little more when we went in the room that got smaller and smaller [in the film], and when we sign the contract, but when we filmed in the chocolate room and he sang “Pure Imagination” that just, he stole my heart.”

The opposite occurred during the filming of the trippy, tonally-different “Wonkatania scene,” an eerie, psychedelic sequence set on a boat during which Wonka seems to sing another whimsical tune, but it quickly shifts into something much darker.

“I was quite surprised with that, there was no acting involved,” says Nickerson. “My chin dropped, hit the ground and never came back up. I had not anticipated that, it was not in the script that he was going to go off on that tangent. I was completely speechless. I thought, nobody is going to come and see this movie this [Wonka character] is a nutjob. But good thing I’m not a producer, right?”

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