This past summer when the great comedic actor Gene Wilder died, many people expressed their grief by offering up tributes to what was perhaps Wilder’s most beloved role, Willy Wonka, in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The film was based on author Roald Dahl’s famed novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a tale in which a poor young boy wins a once in a lifetime chance to tour the eccentric Willy Wonka’s fantastical chocolate factory.
Willy Wonka was so mysterious and wonderfully odd that Wilder’s portrayal of him easily made the character one of – if not the – most memorable things about the cult film. Since that 1971 film, director Tim Burton released his own version of the tale in 2005 with Johnny Depp playing the role of Wonka. However, despite Burton and Depp’s efforts, many fans still prefer the Willy Wonka that Wilder gave audiences more than forty years ago.
With the memories of Willy Wonka having been stirred from the public consciousness since Wilder’s death, Hollywood has spotted an opportunity to bring the bizarre candy entrepreneur back to the big screen. Variety is reporting that Warner Bros. has acquired the intellectual property rights to Willy Wonka from the Roald Dahl estate and will launch a standalone, origin movie on the character. David Heyman, producer of the Harry Potter franchise as well as the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will produce the film.
Aside from having Heyman working behind the scenes to get the film off the ground, Warner Bros. has already hired screenwriter Kevin McCormick (The Secret Life of Pets) to write the script. Although Roald Dahl wrote two books involving Willy Wonka – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as Charlie and the Glass Elevator – the iconic author never wrote any origin material specifically devoted to the character. As a result, this new Warner Bros. film will rely on a brand new story; which if successful, will very likely be expanded into a franchise with the possibility of other characters from Dahl’s novels making appearances further down the line.
Willy Wonka purists will surely be rolling their eyes over the decision to capitalize off the resurgence in fondness for the character. To a certain extent this is justified. However, none of this could be possible without the consent of Roald Dahl’s estate, which has obviously seen something of interest in the project. Of course, those close to the tale haven’t always seen the benefit of more. Gene Wilder himself was quoted as saying that Tim Burton’s 2005 effort was “an insult”, so exactly what he'd think of this latest endeavor is something we'll never know.
At the present moment, Warner Bros only has plans for one film. In this way fans of Willy Wonka who are concerned about potentially ruining something perfect are facing a win-win situation. If the new film doesn’t do well, there won’t be a franchise. If the film does succeed, it just might be due to the fact that the film is great and will therefore open up a new, fascinating world. With a producer like David Heyman on board, that possibility is indeed worth considering.
Screen Rant will keep you up to date on the progress of the Willy Wonka film.