14 facts we never knew about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It is one of the biggest cult hits of all time, but just how much do you know about Willy

It is one of the biggest cult hits of all time, but just how much do you know about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?

Released in cinemas across the world in 1971 as an adaptation of the book ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, the musical fantasy film starring Gene Wilder was not initially a success, however throughout the 80s and 90s it became a family favourite.

Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting trivia about the classic film:

1. The reactions of the actors in some scenes are real

When the children first enter the Chocolate Room and see the candy gardens, their reactions are real – it was really their first view of that particular set. Can you imagine that feeling!?

2. Gene Wilder said he would take the role of Willy Wonka under one condition

The condition was that he would be allowed to limp, then suddenly somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When the director asked why, Gene Wilder replied that having Wonka do this meant that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth”. The director asked, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?”, and Gene Wilder said “I’m afraid that’s the truth”

3. The chocolate river was real…ish

It was made from 150,000 gallons of water, real chocolate and cream. But because of the cream it began to spoil and, by the end of filming, it smelled terrible.

4. Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket) made no other films

He was offered a five-movie deal but declined as he decided acting wasn’t for him. He later became a big animal veterinarian.

5. Roald Dahl wasn’t happy with the movie

Roald Dahl was reportedly so angry with the treatment of his book (it was almost entirely rewritten by David Seltzer) that he refused permission for the book’s sequel, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”, to be filmed. Reportedly, Dahl was so unhappy that he refused to ever watch the whole movie. Rumour has it that once, while staying in a hotel, he accidentally turned it on the TV, but changed the channel immediately when he realised what he was watching.

6. Most of the chocolate bars were actually made of wood

Yep! Though a lot of the set was edible.

7. Grandpa George wanted to tuck in his shoes

Whenever a scene was filmed inside the Buckets’ house, Ernst Ziegler (Grandpa George) would take off his shoes and tuck them under the set bed before crawling in to film the scenes. When it came time to film the portion of the “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” song that involved Grandpa Joe and Charlie both looking under the bed, the director wanted to move Ziegler’s shoes out of the way to film the scene, but Ziegler refused as he was afraid they would take his shoes away. They were his only remaining possession from before World War II and they were very special to him. Eventually, the director was able to convince Ziegler to allow them to move his shoes.

8. Gene Wilder and Peter Ostrum ate lunch together

In the DVD commentary, Peter Ostrum mentions that, toward the end of the shoot (with him being the only kid left) he and Gene Wilder often ate lunch together. Naturally, they finished those lunches by sharing a chocolate bar for dessert!

9. Sammy Davis Jr. wanted to play Bill the candy store owner

The director didn’t like the idea because he felt that that having a big star in the candy store scene would take away from the scene. Nevertheless, the candy store song, “The Candy Man,” became a staple of Davis’ stage show for many years.

10. The foam used to spurt out in the “Wonka Wash” scene was poisonous

It was made from basic fire extinguishers and was a potent skin irritant, so after shooting the scene, the actors’ skin puffed up and reportedly required several days off set to receive medical treatment and recover.

11. Monty Python was turned down

All six members of Monty Python: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, expressed interest in playing the lead role of Willy Wonka, but they were deemed not big enough names for an international audience… ha!

12. One simple line, so many takes

Mike Teevee’s father’s line, “Not ’till you’re twelve, son” took over 40 takes to film.

13. Willy Wonka had another name in the first draft of the book

He was first known as Mr Ritchie and the Oompa-Loompas, right up until the very last moment, were the Whipple-Scrumpets.

14. The book vs the movie

Though the book is called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 movie is named after Willy Wonka. There are two reasons for this: When the NAACP was protesting the Oompa-Loompas, they also demanded that the movie’s title be changed so it wouldn’t promote the book to the young viewers of the movie. The second reason for making it about Willy Wonka instead of Charlie was because the movie was financed by the US food brand Quaker Oats, who wanted to use the movie to advertise a new line of chocolate bars. Eventually, they settled on calling it the Wonka Bar, and then renamed the entire movie after Willy Wonka as a promotional tie-in!

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