, the former teen idol who earned an Oscar nomination for his role as the Artful Dodger in the movie musical Oliver!
, died Wednesday after a long battle with mouth cancer; he was 53. Wild had initially been diagnosed with cancer in 2000, and was left unable to speak after undergoing chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy; he blamed his illness on years of heavy drinking and smoking, and was quoted as saying, "My lifestyle had made me a walking time bomb." Born in 1952 in northern England, Wild was discovered by a talent scout while playing soccer. He was cast in the London stage production of Oliver!
, and his engaging, energetic portrait of the pickpocket the Artful Dodger, who sang one of the show's most famous songs, "Consider Yourself," won him acclaim as well as the role in the Oscar-winning 1968 film adaptation. His success in the film, which earned him Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, led to the lead role in the 1970 children's show H.R. Pufnstuf
, one of the first television projects from producers Sid and Marty Krofft. The fantastical, sometimes surreal show, centering around a lost boy named Jimmy, his magic flute, and the helpful, six-foot dragon of the title, cemented Wild's status as a teen idol, and he also released three music albums while a TV star. By the mid-70s, however, Wild's fame had faded, and he worked only fitfully through the 80s and 90s as he struggled with alcoholism, though he did have a small role in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
. His last film credit was for the 2005 film Moussaka & Chips
, which featured his Oliver!
co-star Ron Moody
. Wild is survived by his wife, Claire Harding. --Prepared by IMDb staff