When Gene Wilder died at the age of 83, we all felt the loss of an exceptional actor. There are many ways of keeping the memory of an actor alive, one of which is re-living some of the great movies that he was in. One of the greatest movies we saw him in was Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, and it’s been a classic ever since its release in 1971. If you haven’t seen this awesome movie yet, then you’re truly missing out. Make this a classic in your life; you’ll never be the same after it.
It’s a childhood favorite that was adapted from the children’s novel by Roald Dahl. The book was incredible, and it was great to see it all come alive on the silver screen. It’s a book about a secret chocolate factory that only a few people are lucky enough to see the inside of. It’s a mysterious world that includes the quirky character of Wonka himself. It was a role that Johnny Depp also took on and made even more quirky, but no one could replace the iconic Gene Wilder. Have you ever wondered how such a movie came together? Gene Wilder made Wonka who he was because of his incredible acting ability. There are many things that you may not know about the legendary movie and we’re here to fill you in on all the details. Stay tuned to hear the shocking secrets you didn’t know about Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.
15. It Featured a Nazi War Criminal
You may have missed the part in the film when they featured a real-life Nazi war criminal. The henchman known as Martin Bormann worked for Adolf Hitler, and he was featured in the scene where Charlie was watching the news. It was the same newscast where the winner of the Golden Ticket was announced. The winner announced is Bormann, and later, the newspaper announced it as a fraud. You would probably think that featuring a Nazi war criminal in the movie would be in poor taste. It was supposed to be a joke, but no one got it. “25 years after World War II, very few people knew or cared who Martin Bormann was, so the scene was never as successful as I had hoped.” It was a weird joke and one that probably shouldn’t have been included at all.
14. The Chocolate River Wasn’t Chocolate
In the movie, one of the children almost drowned because he was so desperate to eat the chocolate from the river. That was all acting, however, because the river wasn’t actually chocolate. Everything else in the chocolate room was edible, and the kids were able to eat anything they wanted. They decided not to have the river be edible, however, because it would be a little much. The actor who played Mike Teevee, Paris Themmen, said that the river was made of a concoction of water and a bit of food coloring. They added some cocoa powder, but they found that it didn’t thicken in the way that they thought it would. The poor guy that played Augustus Gloop, the boy who fell into the chocolate river, said that the river was “disgusting.” We couldn’t imagine having to drink water from the river, but we know that Gloop got a lot of it in his mouth.
13. There Was an Injury
There was an injury on the set of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, and it was to Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt. During the scene where she smashed a chocolate egg, Cole didn’t realize that the egg was real and not just a piece of chocolate, so when she smashed the egg, she injured herself. She fell into the egg and cut her knee badly, but the scene wasn’t set aside. The show had to go on, and she continued on despite her injury. If you watch the first scene that includes the egg, you can actually see that Cole is injured. You can see this because the stocking that she’s wearing is bloody. It was a bad enough injury that she still has a scar on her knee to this day. It’s kind of weird that they would still film the scene with her stocking covered in blood.
12. There Was a Language Barrier
There was a language barrier when it came to the Oompa Loompas. You may not be aware that the Oompa Loompas all spoke a different language because they came from different European countries. The actors all had to learn various songs and dances for the movie, and that was hard with the different languages they had to deal with. Although it looked flawless in the movies, they had a lot of difficulties pulling it together. If you pay close attention, you can actually see a few times when the actors messed up during the songs. The head Oompa Loompa was played by actor Rusty Goffe, and he said that there was a lot of difficulties performing the cartwheels together. Sadly, it took over 76 takes for them to get the scene right, which must have been frustrating. On a lighter note, though, they often played tricks with one another and went out for drinks together.
11. The Famous Entrance
Improv is something that many actors utilize, and when they do, it often makes for some pretty epic scenes in the movies. Without actors doing improv, we could miss out on some awesome scenes. Gene Wilder was great at improv, and he often did it in the movies he played in. When it came to his role as Willy Wonka, he knew how to bring some zaniness to the character. When it came to Wonka’s entrance to meet the children, it was his idea to come in with a limp and a somersault. The scene, of course, wasn’t written that way, and Wilder told director Mel Stuart that he wouldn’t be taking the role if it wasn’t rewritten in the way that he wanted it. The director asked him why, and he responded with: “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
10. Mel Stuart’s Daughter Convinced Him to Make the Movie
Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory is a movie that has childlike wonder about it, and because of that, it’s become a favorite for children all over the world, so it’s not surprising that Mel Stuart’s daughter was the one that told him making the movie would be a great idea. She read the book and was convinced that it would be a great film to make. She considered it her favorite book. She told the story at a memorial for her father: “It was my favorite book at the time, and I told him this would make a great movie.” Stuart decided that his daughter was right and went ahead in making the movie, and she also scored a cameo in the film as well. If it wasn’t for her, the movie might never have been made, so we owe that girl a lot.
9. The Kids’ Reactions Were Real
The great thing about Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory is that the director wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so when the scene came around for the kids to go into the chocolate room and see it for the first time, those reactions from the kids were completely real. The director had not allowed them to see the set beforehand, so when they went in, they were genuinely seeing it for the first time, which is really a fun way of doing it. Why use fake surprise when you can have the real thing? They also had no idea that Wonka would be coming out and limping either. These were all elements that were a surprise to the kids. The director wanted it that way so that the scenes could be as real as possible despite the fact that they were all young actors.
8. Quaker Oats Financed the Film
The budget for the film was financed entirely by the company Quaker Oats. The budget was $3 million, and the company took the whole hit. It’s kind of a weird deal if you think about it because that sort of thing doesn’t usually happen. It was necessary at the time because there was a huge drop in ticket sales in the ’60s and ’70s, and many of the studios were in financial distress, so taking on corporate sponsors was absolutely necessary in the end. At the time, Quaker Oats was looking for a project to get involved in, and they also wanted to promote their Wonka bars, so by having Quaker Oats involved, they also used their candy in the making of the film. In the end, it all worked out despite the fact that it was a weird alliance at first.
7. Wonkatania Boat Was on a Track
The boat scene in the movie was one of the most iconic scenes in the movie, and it was yet another scene that was kept secret from the kids so that their surprise was authentic. There were other elements to the scene that the director wanted to be authentic as well. The boat that was made for that scene was put on a track so that it could go down the chocolate river perfectly. There was an Oompa Loompa on the helm of the ship steering it. It was unnecessary, of course, because of the track, and the actor had no idea that it was on a track. The director didn’t see any reason to tell the actor because he wanted it to be as believable as possible. As a result, the poor guy thought that he was steering the ship the entire time.
6. The Blind Warrior
There are sometimes some quirks when it comes to certain actors, things that you wouldn’t otherwise know. You might not be aware that actor Ernest Ziegler, who played Grandpa George, was in World War I. While he was serving his country, he was nearly blinded by poison gas, so his vision wasn’t what it used it be. As a result, during filming, he wasn’t always able to see things, especially in the dark or dimly lit scenes, so the director told him to look for a red light so he would know where to look when his character had to focus on a certain direction. That was pretty handy for him but also a little sad that he was affected that much by the war. It makes us wonder how he got into acting after the war. Seems like such an extreme direction to go into.
5. They Worried About Racism
Did you ever wonder why the Oompa Loompas had such a weird skin color? Well, it was because they didn’t want the Loompas to identify with any particular race. By avoiding any particular skin color, they were also trying to prevent charges of racism. The orange-skinned Loompas have freaked out many children because of their weird appearances. They’re very different from Dahl’s depiction where they were to be a tribe from “the deepest heart of Africa.” The NAACP had different thoughts, however. “The objection to the title Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is simply that the NAACP doesn’t approve of the book, and therefore doesn’t want the film to encourage sales of the book. The solution is to make the Oompa-Loompas white and to make the film under a different title.” Mel Stuart took most of the advice but made the Oompa-Loompas orange-skinned men.
4. Wonka Instead of Charlie
The book written by Roald Dahl was titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so many people were confused when the name was changed for the movie. There have been many different theories on why they changed the name. One theory was that they were trying to avoid racism again because the producers suggested that slaves used to call their bosses “Mr. Charlie.” Because of that, they wanted to avoid using “Charlie” in the title. Another theory is that because Quaker Oats was funding the whole project, they wanted a name for the movie that fit with the Wonka bars. But at the end of the day, Stuart explained it as such: “If people say, ‘I saw Willy Wonka,’ people would know what they were talking about. If they say, ‘I saw Charlie,’ it doesn’t mean anything.” It’s an interesting take on the title change for sure.
3. Roald Dahl Hated the Movie
So what did Roald Dahl think of the movie based on his book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? He actually hated the movie as well as the fact that Gene Wilder played Willy Wonka. Not only did they change the name of his work of art, but all the accusations of racism really rubbed him the wrong way. That wasn’t the only reason why he hated the movie, though. He despised Wilder’s portrayal of Willy Wonka mainly because he had always thought a British actor should play the role. As if that wasn’t enough, he hated the musical score as well. Donald Sturrock explained it as such: “He felt it was a little too saccharine. I picked up from other people that he found it too sappy and sentimental. It’s interesting because I don’t think he realized what a strong effect the music had on a generation of kids.”
2. The Movie Inspired Marilyn Manson
You might be surprised to find out that Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory inspired Marilyn Manson’s music. Seriously? Yes, it did, in fact. When Manson came on the scene in the ’90s, parents all over the world were unimpressed because his songs had a lot to with drugs, Satan, and sex. When Manson debuted his album Portrait of An American Family in 1994, the track Prelude (The Family Trip) had Manson reciting Wilder’s monolog from the Boat Trip with creepy music attached. The singer had a huge obsession with Willy Wonka, and you can see that with his music. “The singer’s obsession with Willy Wonka even extended to a music video for the song ‘Dope Hat,’ featuring an homage to the film’s boat ride scene and Manson donning a Wonka-esque outfit. It all proves that Willy Wonka’s dark, subversive element was more apparent to children than adults, which won over Generation X and every generation that’s followed.” (Screenrant)
1. Charlie Never Acted Again
Peter Ostrum was the actor that played Charlie in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, but despite the popularity of the film, he never acted in another movie. It wasn’t because he wasn’t offered another role because he was. In fact, he turned down a multi-film deal with the studio because he wanted to do other things. He had a dream of being a veterinarian, and the money he made from the film allowed him to do so. With the money he earned from the movie, he bought his very first horse and went from there. He opened his own practice and decided to pursue animal medicine. He decided to move to New York City, and he now has a wife and children. Had he stayed in acting, he could’ve done a lot more. Besides, he had the time. It’s not like he became a vet as a child.
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