Weird Stories from behind the Scenes of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'
It’s been nearly 50 years since the cult film based on the novel by Roald Dahl was released, and it continues fascinating the public with its eerie and dreamlike world and its lessons.
It was such a unique project that much of what happened behind the scenes was almost as exciting and unexpected as the surreal adventures the characters portrayed in the film go through.
From lead star Gene Wilder’s creativity to the fan-favorite Oompa Loompas, there are a lot of stories and facts that made worthy giving this everlasting classic a closer look.
GENE WILDER HAD COMPETITION
There were big names that were mentioned as possible actors to play the lead role of Willy Wonka, even though Wilder ended up getting the part. Director Mel Stuart reportedly knew Wilder was the one as soon as he arrived at the audition.
But British comedy geniuses such as Peter Sellers and all the members of Monty Python reportedly had their eyes on the role, as American musical legend Fred Astaire did.
Wilder ended up adding a lot to the character, not only with his actions but also by helping design his own costume.
THE OOMPA LOOMPAS
There is a reason for the Oompa Loompas to be depicted as orange-skinned and having green hair while they are described in the book differently.
Dahl originally had them be African Pygmies, but this was met with outrage from the NAACP(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
This is why the designers gave these characters an appearance that didn’t belong to any existing ethnic group.
As a curiosity, most of the actors that played the Oompa Loompas didn’t speak English, as they were mostly from Europe, since the film was shot in Germany. As circus performers, they enjoyed pranking their fellow cast members.
LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING, ESPECIALLY IN THE MOVIES
On paper, the concept of The Chocolate Room was flawless: an entire room where every item is made out of sweets.
But the fact is that to recreate it in the studio, the set designers had to build most of it out of inedible materials, to actor Paris Themmen’s frustration. Most candy bars were made of wood, and the lickable wallpaper tasted awful, Themmen later shared.
As a further disappointment, the Chocolate River that went across the room, which was actually made out of chocolate and cream started to smell bad after the first few days of filming, and nobody would have thought of drinking out of it.
Out of all the children that appeared in the cult film, only Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt, continued acting. Ironically, she hated chocolate in real life, but she managed to fool us all into believing she was delighted when she ate it.
Actor Ernst Ziegler, who played the role of Grandpa George, was partially blind while filming due to his exposure to poison gas when he fought in World War I. The filmmakers used a red light to help Ziegler find the right direction to look at.
Apart from Wilder, who was already famous when he played Willy Wonka, Rusty Goffe, who played one of the Oompa Loompas, went on to have the most successful film career of all the members of the cast.
Goffe has appeared in “Star Wars,” “Willow,” “Flash Gordon,” and, decades later, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.”
ROALD DAHL HATED IT
The author of the original book and of much of the screenplay for the first movie adaptation was unhappy with the production since the start, in part because he couldn’t get his friend Spike Milligan to play the lead.
Dahl was also frustrated with the changes made in the script by David Seltzer, who not only made the story more about Wonka that about Charlie, not to mention the fact that Seltzer changed the film’s last line at the last minute.
Dahl never hid his dislike with how the film adaptation of his beloved literary work turned out. Tim Burton’s adaptation was released 15 years after Dahl’s passing, so nobody knows if the writer would have liked it better than the first one.