When author Roald Dahl penned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he captured the hearts of countless children and it continues to be a popular book to this day. After all, what’s not to love – a tale of a young boy triumphing and snagging a spot on his dream tour, an enormous chocolate factory with charming details such as a chocolate river and edible flowers, and more. The memorable cast of characters, including the spoiled Veruca Salt and the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, are part of what made the book so beloved. Therefore, it’s not surprising that in 1971, less than a decade after the book was published, a movie was made of the classic tale.
While there was a remake with Johnny Depp created in 2005, most people still find the original 1971 version to be the classic cinematic adaptation of Willy Wonka. However, there is one interesting detail – while many child actors who star in popular films end up becoming successful in the world of Hollywood, Willy Wonka seems to be an exception. Some of the actors tried their hand in one or two roles, but as a whole, they mainly disappeared from the public eye as they grew up. Their slice of fame is limited to the beloved 1971 film packed with Oompa Loompas and impossibly creative candies.
So where are they now? Here’s a look at the main cast of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, how they landed the role at the time, and what they have been doing with their lives since.
7. Willy Wonka – Gene Wilder
Wonka was undoubtedly one of actor Gene Wilder’s most iconic roles – however, he has had more success after Wonka than any of the others actors or actresses in it. Perhaps because he was not a child taking on his first role, but rather an already established actor, when he donned the iconic Wonka costume. His career has spanned nearly all acting mediums, as he’s been on stage on Broadway, on the small screen as a guest star on sitcom Will & Grace, and in films such as The Frisco Kid and The Woman in Red. Wilder has also tried his hand as a writer and director, and penned a memoir entitled Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art and written several novels. He’s certainly kept busy.
6. Grandpa Joe – Jack Albertson
When he played Grandpa Joe, Charlie Bucket’s lovable grandfather who was as excited as any of the children to enter Wonka’s factory, Jack Albertson was already in his 60s, so it’s likely not surprising that he’s unfortunately passed away since then from cancer. He was one of the more successful members of the Wonka cast in the entertainment industry, and performed as a comedian, dancer, singer, musician and more. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and even an Academy Award to his name, for Best Supporting Actor in the film The Subject was Roses. While a true film buff will know Albertson from his other roles, the average viewer likely still associates him most with his role as Grandpa Joe.
5. Charlie Bucket – Peter Ostrum
The film tried to place the emphasis on the character of Willy Wonka by naming the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory rather than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was the title of the book the movie was based on. However, Charlie Bucket was still a memorable character and Peter Ostrum’s portrayal of the boy with the golden ticket is iconic in the world of Hollywood. So did Ostrum go on to have a long career in Hollywood? Not exactly. Charlie Bucket was his one and only film role. After attending Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Ostrum set up shop in upstate New York as a veterinarian. According to his wife Loretta, Ostrum wasn’t exactly bragging about his childhood slice of fame, as he told neither her nor anyone in their town about his cinematic past.
4. Veruca Salt – Julie Dawn Cole
Who could forget the little girl who wanted it all, and wanted it NOW. Julie Dawn Cole played the iconic spoiled brat Veruca Salt, and it seems the acting bug that bit her early on remained a constant force in her life, as she went on to have a long career in the entertainment industry. While the British actress may not be a household name to North American audiences, she’s gained a moderate level of success in the U.K. While her most memorable roles are decade-stretching recurring parts on television series Emmerdale and Casualty, Cole hasn’t been without work for long, starring in countless television series and mini series.
3. Violet Beauregarde – Denise Nickerson
Unlike some cast members who were plucked from obscurity and brought into Wonka-land, like Peter Ostrum, Denise Nickerson already had her toes in the Hollywood pool when she got the role of Violet Beauregarde. After Wonka, she snagged a few small roles, the most notable being on the soap opera Dark Shadows. However, as she entered adulthood, Nickerson decided that perhaps acting wasn’t really her life’s path. She is now an accountant at an engineering plant in Denver.
2. Mike Teavee – Paris Themmen
Paris Themmen, who played the television-obsessed Mike Teavee, has a fair amount of childhood acting credits to his name, including over two dozen commercials and voice over gigs, as well as stints on stage in productions like The Rothschild’s. He took a break at 14 before going back into the theatre world by getting a BFA from NYU. According to his website, Themmen then founded a travel service that allowed him to travel the world while helping other travellers get onto standby charter flights to Europe. He then dabbled in several career paths, including real estate, film production, retail and more. Nowadays, he’s directing commercial casting sessions in L.A.
1. Augustus Gloop – Michael Bollner
Like Ostrum, Bollner counts Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as his film debut and only acting credit. As opposed to most of the stars, who came from the United States and U.K., Bollner was German and had to learn English on set. His father encouraged him to continue on and finish his schooling, which he did – and rather than pursuing an entertainment career, he’s moved into the world of taxes. He currently lives in his native Germany, stands tall at 6’7 (it must have been all the chocolate on set) and uses his commanding presence to run his accounting business.
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