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Willy Wonka cast shares bittersweet memories as the movie turns 45

Screenshot: Willy Wonka Cast Reveal Secret Behind Chocolate River/TODAY

Based on a 1964 children’s book by Roald Dahl, Mel Stuart’s hyperglycemic fantasia Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory was a modest performer for Paramount Pictures when it was released exactly 45 years ago today, earning $4 million on a $3 million budget. One of its songs, “The Candy Man,” did become a chart topper that year, thanks to a Vegas-style rendition by Sammy Davis Jr., and the film’s score was at least nominated for an Oscar. (It lost.) Funded by the good people at Quaker Oats, the darkly comedic movie about an eccentric, reclusive confectioner and his deathtrap of a factory became a beloved cult classic largely through television airings and various home video releases.

Back in 2015, NBC’s Today Show decided to chat with the cast members of the film and quiz them about their memories of working on the strange project. The Willy Wonka reunion panel consisted of: Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee), and Rusty Goffe (the lead Oompa Loompa). Of these, Cole and Goffe (a fixture of the Harry Potter films) were the showbiz lifers, though Nickerson was quite a prolific child actor in the 1960s and 1970s, even appearing on Dark Shadows, which turned 50 this week.


Happily, all the panelists have fond recollections of working on Wonka, and Cole even refers to “the Wonka effect,” referring to the warm feeling that the film still generates in people when even its title is mentioned. Nickerson says that, of all the actors in the movie, Cole was the least like her monumentally bratty character. Goffe remembers all the kids as being annoying, though. Who screwed up the most takes? That would be Goffe as well, who had trouble doing all those much-remembered cartwheels during ”The Oompa Loompa Song.” If there’s one aspect of the production about which they are not particularly nostalgic, it’s the famous chocolate river that flowed through Wonka’s factory. It was just water, they say, and it smelled bad. So much for pure imagination.

[via Consequence Of Sound]

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