19 Facts About “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory”

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

1. Gene Wilder came up with the idea for Wonka to make his entrance with a limp and do that famous somersault.

In fact, he told director Mel Stuart that he wouldn’t take the role unless they rewrote the scene that way. When Stuart asked Wilder why, Wilder responded, “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

2. Director Mel Stuart didn’t allow the actors to see the Chocolate Room before they shot the scene.

According to Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, Stuart wanted them all to have genuine reactions of wonder to the room and figured this was the best way.

3. In fact, that was a recurring tactic for Stuart: He didn’t warn anyone about the infamous boat scene either.

Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) says his character is pretty happy-go-lucky for most of the movie, but is visibly uncomfortable in that scene because he, as an 11-year-old kid, was honestly a bit scared of Wilder.

In the DVD featurette, Ostrum (Charlie) reveals that he and Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe) were also not warned that Wilder would be yelling at them in the office scene. Wilder rehearsed the scene in a much calmer tone so as to surprise them and get an honest reaction during filming, but claims he wanted desperately to warn Ostrum.

4. The actors claim that anything they ate in the Chocolate Room was edible, but the chocolate river was NOT chocolate.

Themmen, who played Mike Teevee, claims the river was mostly water with some food coloring added, as cocoa powder didn’t thicken the mixture at all. Michael Bollner, who played Augustus Gloop, says it tasted “disgusting.”

5. Wilder also says in the DVD commentary that his delicious-looking buttercup was actually made of wax.

He would chew on it until they yelled “cut,” then spit it out. Sorry, everyone.

6. Oh, and that wallpaper? It tasted like wallpaper, not Snozzberries.

“It tasted disgusting,” said Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt). “It wasn’t the most pleasant thing to film.”

7. The civil rights movement is, in part, why the movie is called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the book is called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

In the book, the Oompa Loompas are pygmies from Africa, but producers felt that having African pygmies working for a white man would ring too much of slavery, especially on the heels of the civil rights movement.

So Mel Stuart decided to change the Oompa Loompas to the orange-faced figures we know today. However, one of the producers also brought up that slaves on plantations would refer to their bosses as “Mr. Charlie” before the Civil War. So Stuart also felt he should change the title.

However, Stuart finalized the decision on this rationale: “If people say, ‘I saw Willy Wonka,’ people would know what they were talking about. If they say, ‘I saw Charlie,’ it doesn’t mean anything.”

8. The Oompa Loompa actors came from different European countries and spoke many different languages, which made learning the songs and dances very difficult.

If you watch closely you can notice the occasional slip-up in their lip-synching due to the language barrier.

9. The Oompa Loompa actors became fast friends despite those language barriers, and would often go out drinking together. One time, they pranked everyone staying at the cast and crew’s hotel.

“In those days, when you wanted to have your shoes shined, you’d leave them outside of your hotel room door,” explained Themmen in a Reddit AMA. “One night the Oompa Loompas grabbed all the shoes, tied the laces together, and left them in a pile to be found in the morning.”

10. According to head Oompa Loompa Rusty Goffe, the scene where he does (admittedly bad) cartwheels took 76 takes.

Goffe attributes this to the language barrier with the rest of the Oompa Loompas, and claims it’s the reason his cartwheels are lackluster.

11. Speaking of Rusty Goffe, he continues to act to this day and had a role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Yep, he was the head goblin teller at Gringotts who asks Hermione (as Bellatrix) for identification.

12. Ostrum, on the other hand, never appeared in another movie. He turned down a multi-film deal with the studio to be a veterinarian.

He used his earnings from the movie to buy his first horse and pursued animal medicine from there. He currently lives in upstate New York with his wife and children.

That’s Ostrum on the left, and Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) on the right.

13. The movie’s $3 million budget (pretty low even for the time) was provided entirely by Quaker Oats, who saw the movie as a promotional opportunity.

Stuart claims his daughter, who was 11 at the time, suggested that he make the movie after she read the book. Stuart then brought it up to producer David Wolper, who happened to have a meeting some time later with Quaker Oats, who asked the question, “Do you have anything about chocolate?”

14. The last line of the movie was almost “Yippee!” until Stuart had it rewritten on the spot.

Stuart contacted the film’s uncredited screenwriter, David Seltzer, on an international call to have him rewrite the final line while the actors were on set and ready to film. He says he gave Seltzer five minutes to come up with the last line of the movie, and Seltzer came back a few minutes later with, “Do you know what happens to people who get everything they want in life, Charlie? They live happily ever after.”

15. One thing you might not have noticed: There are exactly enough seats on Wonka’s riverboat.

That means Wonka must have known that at least one child would have dropped out by that point.

16. And another: The musical code that Wonka plays is actually from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, even though Mrs. Teevee says it’s Rachmaninoff.

The movie uses a lot of literary and cultural references, some of them slightly inaccurate: Wonka misquotes Shakespeare and John Masefield during the tour, and uses an incorrect German article. These could be character choices or plain old mistakes from the filmmakers.

17. Many people theorize that Wonka’s office has half-items because Slugworth took half his empire, but that’s not the real reason.

Stuart said in his book Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that he just couldn’t bear having the Wonka tour end in a normal office, so he decided to have items sawed in half to make it more Wonka-esque.

18. The movie was shot in Munich, Germany.

If you look closely in some of the street scenes, you can see signs written in German. The location was chosen due to the film’s low budget, but Stuart also liked Munich because, as he put it, “Nobody knows what Munich looks like.”

19. In the DVD commentary, Ostrum said that he and Wilder would have lunch together toward the end of shooting and share a chocolate bar for dessert as they walked back to set.