Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has become a childhood staple, and indeed, favorite film for many. Gene Wilder’s incarnation of one of author Roald Dahl’s most standout literary characters is regarded by many as one of the late actor’s greatest roles. Tim Burton cast Johnny Depp to play the Wonka character in a 2005 movie adaptation of Dahl’s literature, but the original Willy Wonka is still widely thought of as the best version.
News that Warner Bros. have acquired the rights to the Willy Wonka character from the Dahl estate have been met with mixed to negative reactions. Firstly, the news came almost right on the back of Wilder’s passing, and secondly, fans of Dahl’s work are rather protective of his stories and those who inhabit them. WB nevertheless revealed its plans to make a new movie focused on the master chocolate maker, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them producer David Heyman set to produce the film – drawing from a script written by Simon Rich (The Secret Life of Pets).
“It’s not a remake. They’ve done two films, quite different. But it’s possibly an origin story. We’re just in the early stages of it, working with a writer called Simon Rich, which is wonderful. I’m a huge Roald Dahl fan. I’ve been trying to work on Dahl material for quite some time but they’re all tied up. So when this was suggested, I didn’t take a moment to pause and want to jump right in.”
It’s hardly surprising that Heyman wants to work on Dahl material; the author left behind a wealth of work and a plethora of characters that have been thoroughly enjoyed by children and adults alike for generations. However, all Heyman has here is a character, not any source material, which makes it all a bit tricky. Heyman explained:
“It’s challenging because you don’t have Dahl, you don’t have a Dahl book, and yet you have a Dahl character. But I think there’s a lot in his character that suggests who he is and also where he might come from or what his childhood or his middle age might have been like. So we’re exploring that. We’re discussing it. We’re in the very early stages and very excited about what lies ahead.”
Those who watched Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will recall that the movie did briefly look at Willy Wonka’s childhood, but it was only a short look and of course, wholly imagined since Dahl didn’t write about it. In that regard, it will perhaps be interesting to see a take on where this character came from, and why and how he became such an eccentric genius.
However, Dahl himself was so upset by the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film, that he stipulated in his will that the sequel to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”, should never be made into a movie. In part his anger stemmed from Warner Bros. rejecting his first and second choices for the role of Willy Wonka; Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, respectively, but he was also very vocal in his disapproval for both Wilder and director Mel Stuart.
With that in mind, it is hard for fans to really get onboard with the idea of Wonka coming back to the big screen. Maybe Heyman is hoping that by going back to the character’s origins, the resulting movie will stand alone as its own piece of work – merely using ideas based on Dahl’s original character and story, making it different enough for an audience to truly enjoy.
We will keep you updated on the progress of the Willy Wonka film.