Willy Wonka

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This article is about the fictional character. For disambiguation, see Willy Wonka (disambiguation).
Willy Wonka
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character
First appearance Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Created by Roald Dahl
Portrayed by Gene Wilder (1971)
Johnny Depp (2005)
Voiced by Maurice LaMarche (commercials)
James Arnold Taylor (video game)

Willy Wonka is a character in Roald Dahl's 1964 children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, its sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and the film adaptations of these books that followed.

The book and the film adaptations both vividly depict an odd Wonka, a phoenix-like man arising from his creative and eccentric genius. He bewilders the other characters with his antics, but Charlie enjoys Wonka's behavior. In the 2005 film adaptation, Willy Wonka's behavior is viewed more as a sympathetic character flaw. Wonka's reasons for giving away his factory are never revealed in the books, but in the 1971 film adaptation, Wonka tells Charlie he "can't live forever", so he wanted to find a sweet child to whom he could entrust his candy making secrets. In the 2005 film adaption, Wonka tells Charlie that one day while getting his hair cut, he realized he needed to find an heir.


1971 film adaptation[edit]

Willy Wonka (portrayed by Gene Wilder) has hidden five Golden Tickets amongst his famous "Wonka Bars" The finders of these special tickets will be given a full tour of his tightly guarded candy factory as well as a lifetime supply of chocolate. During the tour, Wonka tempts each of the bad children to disobey his orders with something related to their individual character flaws. Eventually, Charlie Bucket is the only remaining child. Wonka informs him that the tour is over, politely dismisses him and Grandpa Joe, and disappears into his office without mentioning the promised prize of a lifetime supply of chocolate. They both go into Wonka's office to confront him, where he then tells them of the forfeiture clause of the contract signed by Charlie and the other ticket holders. Charlie's part in the theft of Fizzy Lifting Drinks earlier means that he has violated the contract and therefore, he receives nothing. Now enraged, Wonka dismisses them with a furious "Good Day!". Grandpa Joe berates him for this but Wonka yells back "I said Good Day!" Charlie then returns the gobstopper to Wonka's desk. Wonka apologizes and reveals that "Slugworth" who had been spying on the children was actually an employee of his named "Wilkinson". The trio enter the great glass elevator and go high to the sky where Wonka reveals that Charlie will move into the factory and take over its business when Wonka retires.

2005 film adaptation[edit]

Willy Wonka (portrayed by Johnny Depp), the owner of a famous chocolate factory, has long closed access to his factory due to problems concerning industrial espionage that ultimately led him to fire all his employees, among them Charlie's Grandpa Joe. One day, Wonka informs the world of a contest, in which five Golden Tickets have been placed in five random Wonka Bars worldwide, and the winners will be given a full tour of the factory as well as a lifetime supply of chocolate, while one ticket holder will be given a special prize at the end of the tour. After all five of the tickets are found, Wonka greets Charlie and the other ticket holders outside the factory and leads the group into the facility. During the tour, Wonka tempts each of the bad children to disobey his orders with something related to their individual character flaws. Wonka then invites Charlie to come live and work in the factory with him, and reveals that the purpose of the Golden Tickets and the tour was to make the "least rotten" child the heir of the factory itself, so he can have someone carry on his legacy when he gets too old. The only condition, however, is that Charlie must leave his family behind, as Wonka believes family is a hindrance to a chocolatier's creative freedom, a philosophy he developed due to his dentist father, Dr. Wilbur Wonka, denying his son candy because of the potential risk to his teeth. After secretly sampling some candy, Wonka was instantly hooked and ran away to follow his dreams. After being refused Charlie's offer, Wonka falls into a state of emotional depression and returns to Charlie to seek advice. Wonka soon reunites with his estranged father and allows Charlie's family to live in the factory, forever.

2013 musical adaptation[edit]

Willy Wonka (protracted by Douglas Hodge) has decided to open his factory to five children whom can find one of five golden tickets hidden in the wrappers in Wonka Bars. The play opens with charlie in a large trash pile looking for items that are "almost nearly perfect". He later goes home and we get to see the golden ticket winners on an over-sized TV with actors inside it. Once all the tickets have been won, Willy Wonka invites the children into his factory, where he them temps each of them with a weakness. Finally only charlie is left. Willy Wonka and charlie board Wonka's "Great Glass Elevator" which takes off over the audience.[1]

Concept and creation[edit]

2005 film adaptation[edit]

Early on in the production of the 2005 film, Nicolas Cage was under discussions for portraying Willy Wonka, but lost interest.[2][3] Warner Bros. president Alan F. Horn wanted Tom Shadyac to direct Jim Carrey as Willy Wonka, believing the duo could make Charlie and the Chocolate Factory relevant to mainstream audiences, but Roald Dahl's widow Liccy Dahl opposed this.[4] After Tim Burton was hired as director in May 2003, Burton immediately thought of Johnny Depp for the role of Willy Wonka, who joined the following August for his fourth collaboration with the director.[5]

Burton and screenwriter John August worked together in creating Wilbur Wonka, Willy's domineering dentist father. "You want a little bit of the flavor of why Wonka is the way he is," Burton reasoned. "Otherwise, what is he? He's just a weird guy."[6] Warner Bros. and Burton held differences over the characterization of Willy Wonka. The studio wanted to make Willy Wonka the idyllic father figure Charlie Bucket had longed for his entire life. Burton believed that Wonka would not be a good father, finding the character similar to a recluse.[7] "In some ways," Burton protested, "he's more screwed up than the kids."[8] Prior to Burton's involvement, Warner Bros. considered or discussed Willy Wonka with Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Michael Keaton,[2] Brad Pitt, Will Smith[6] and Adam Sandler.[4] Johnny Depp was the only actor Burton considered for the role,[8] who signed on without reading the script under the intention on going with a completely different approach than what Gene Wilder did in the 1971 film adaptation.[9] "Regardless of what one thinks of that film," Depp explained, "Gene Wilder's persona, his character, stands out."[4] Depp stated on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that he based the character on what he believed an "incredibly stoned" George W. Bush would act like.[10]

Comparisons were drawn between Willy Wonka and musician Michael Jackson. Burton joked, "Here's the deal. There's a big difference: Michael Jackson (d. 2009) likes children, Willy Wonka can't stand them. To me that's a huge difference."[7] Depp explained that the similarities with Jackson never occurred to him. "I say if there was anyone you'd want to compare Wonka to it would be a Howard Hughes, almost. Reclusive, germaphobe, controlling."[11] Burton agreed with the Hughes similarities, and additionally supplied Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane as inspiration. "Somebody who was brilliant but then was traumatized and then retreats into their own world."[8] Depp wanted to sport prosthetic makeup for the part and have a long, elongated nose, but Burton believed it would be too outrageous.[6]

Critical analysis[edit]

Wilder's performance as Willy Wonka was well received and remains one of his best-known roles. Time Out Film Guide called it "Great fun, with Wilder for once giving an impeccably controlled performance as the factory's bizarre candy owner."[12] Critic Jeffrey M. Anderson, of Combustible Celluloid, wrote, "[W]hen the movie does actually reach the factory, and Gene Wilder takes the stage, the movie is saved. Wilder was in the middle of an incredible run of subtle comic performances... and he was at the height of his powers here."[13] Regarding Wilder's effect, Anderson wrote "If you're a kid, Wonka seems magical, but watching it now, he has a frightening combination of warmth, psychosis, and sadism."[13] Kevin Carr, of 7M pictures wrote "This is Gene Wilder's legacy. He was perfect for the role, and it was his mixture of childlike wonder and bitter, deserved vengeance that made the character so compelling.",[14] while critic Widgett Walls simply called it "Probably Gene Wilder's finest, most manic hour." [15] Wilder received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his role as Willy Wonka, but lost to Chaim Topol as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.[16]

Critical response to Johnny Depp's performance as Willy Wonka was more mixed. Critic Andrew Sarris, of The New York Observer, who did not enjoy the film's style in general, wrote "I wonder if even children will respond to the peculiarly humorless and charmless stylistic eccentricities of Mr. Burton and his star, Johnny Depp."[17] However, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka may be a stone freak, but he is also one of Burton's classic crackpot conjurers, like Beetlejuice or Ed Wood."[18] Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle found that "all the laughs [in the film] come from Depp, who gives Willy the mannerisms of a classic Hollywood diva".[19] Roger Ebert wrote "Depp, an actor of considerable gifts, has never been afraid to take a chance, but this time he takes the wrong one. His Willy Wonka is an enigma in an otherwise mostly delightful movie from Tim Burton,"[20] while Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone magazine that "Depp's deliciously demented take on Willy Wonka demands to be seen. Depp goes deeper to find the bruises on Wonka's secret heart than what Gene Wilder did."[21] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post also criticized Depp's acting; "The cumulative effect isn't pretty. Nor is it kooky, funny, eccentric or even mildly interesting. Indeed, throughout his fey, simpering performance, Depp seems to be straining so hard for weirdness that the entire enterprise begins to feel like those excruciating occasions when your parents tried to be hip."[22] Joe Lozito of Big Picture Big Sound questioned the intention as well, writing "Depp's Wonka exudes none of the gravity required for the role. It's as though he didn't take the role seriously. Rather than an intimidating candyman teaching brats a lesson, this Wonka is simply a freak."[23] Depp received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his role as Willy Wonka, but lost to Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.[24]

See also[edit]

List of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory characters


  1. ^ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has mixed reviews but announces extension | Stage. theguardian.com (26 June 2013). Retrieved on 17 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b Waugh, Rob (3 April 2005). "Sweet Smell of Success". The Mail on Sunday. 
  3. ^ Greg Dean Schmitz. "Greg's Preview — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on 15 April 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c Horn, John (12 July 2005). "A Nuttier 'Chocolate'". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (19 August 2003). "Where there's a Willy". Variety. 
  6. ^ a b c Nashawaty, Chris (8 July 2005). "Cover Story: The Truth About 'Charlie'". Entertainment Weekly. 
  7. ^ a b Head, Steve (8 July 2005). "Interview: Tim Burton". IGN. 
  8. ^ a b c Salisbury, Mark and Burton, Tim (2006). "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Burton on Burton. London: Faber and Faber. pp. 223–245. ISBN 0-571-22926-3. 
  9. ^ "Movie Preview: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Entertainment Weekly. 18 April 2005. 
  10. ^ "Depp's Wonka Inspiration". Breitbert. 8 May 2012. 
  11. ^ Head, Steve (13 July 2005). "Interview: Johnny Depp". IGN. 
  12. ^ Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory | review, synopsis, book tickets, showtimes, movie release date | Time Out London. Timeout.com. Retrieved on 17 September 2013.
  13. ^ a b Combustible Celluloid Review – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Roald Dahl, David Seltzer (uncredited), based on a novel by Roald Dahl, Mel Stuart, Gene Wilder, P. Combustiblecelluloid.com (30 June 1971). Retrieved on 17 September 2013.
  14. ^ "WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY" Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr. 7M Pictures. Retrieved on 17 September 2013.
  15. ^ Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – DVD Review » Need Coffee Dot Com. Needcoffee.com (18 January 2002). Retrieved on 17 September 2013.
  16. ^ Browse Results – Golden Globe Awards Official Website. Goldenglobes.org. Retrieved on 17 September 2013.
  17. ^ The Candy Man Can’t: What Is Johnny Depp Up To? New York Observer (1 August 2005)
  18. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (13 July 2005). "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Entertainment Weekly. 
  19. ^ Mick LaSalle (15 July 2005). "Depp brings a nutty center to Willy Wonka adventure". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  20. ^ "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  21. ^ Peter Travers (14 July 2005). "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 20 June 2008. 
  22. ^ Hornaday, Ann (15 July 2005). "Sorry, Charlie". The Washington Post. 
  23. ^ Lozito, Joe (29 July 2005) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Movie Review. Bigpicturebigsound.com. Retrieved on 17 September 2013.
  24. ^ "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 

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