Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Interesting Facts

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released in 1971 and is as timeless a classic movie as you can find. The film tells the story of a poor child named Charlie Bucket who, upon finding a Golden Ticket in a chocolate bar, wins the chance to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory along with four other children from around the world. Here are some interesting facts about this classic movie.

After reading the script, Gene Wilder said he would take the role of Willy Wonka under one condition: that he would be allowed to limp and then suddenly somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When director Mel Stuart asked why, 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.” Stuart asked, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?” Wilder said, “I’m afraid that’s the truth.”
Ernst Ziegler, who played Grandpa George, was nearly blind (from poison gas in World War I), so he was instructed to look for a red light to guide him when his character was meant to be looking in a specific direction.
The reactions of the actors and actresses in some scenes are spontaneous. In the scene where Wonka limps out of his factory to greet the Golden Ticket winners, everyone’s reaction is genuine. When the children first enter the Chocolate Room and see the candy gardens, their reactions are genuine. When filming the tunnel scene, the actors’ reactions to Wonka’s singing were genuine; Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson, and Denise Nickerson were all terrified and had thought Gene Wilder had gone into a psychotic meltdown. In the scene where Wonka is screaming at Charlie and Grandpa Joe, Ostrum’s and Albertson’s reactions are real. Wilder actually wanted to tell Ostrum beforehand, but director Mel Stuart advised strongly against it, so as not to ruin the illusion of surprise.
The chocolate river was made from 150,000 gallons of water, real chocolate, and cream. The filmmakers had to change the formula for the chocolate river because, originally, the concoction they were using turned blood red. Because of the cream, the mixture began to spoil, and by the end of filming, it smelled terrible. Michael Bollner, who played Augustus Gloop, later described it as “dirty, stinky water.”
The song Wonka sings on the boat ride (“There’s no earthly way of knowing… “) are the only song lyrics taken directly from Roald Dahl’s book. All other songs were written specifically for the film.
The Oompa Loompas were known for hard partying off-set, even travelling in a limo together to bars.
In the scene when the tour first enters the Chocolate River room, Julie Dawn Cole didn’t know the rock that she uses to crack the large piece of candy open was real, and she drops down onto it, injuring her knee. If you look carefully, you can see her left stocking has blood on it. She still has a scar on her knee from the injury.
Denise Nickerson had a Violet-esque experience in real life. She said in the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory DVD commentary that one day in math class, kids started pointing at her and laughing, and one of her friends told her she was turning purple. The make-up used on her for the film had seeped into her pores and started to resurface (which, she jokingly remarks, prevented her from getting any dates at that school).
Even though the film was made in Germany, which is world-renowned for its candies, on the DVD commentary, Peter Ostrum said that the sweets were shipped from the United States. In his words: “They were quite stale by the time we got to them.”

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