Nickerson at Wizard World Chicago in 2011
April 1, 1957 |
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, former singer|
(1981-1983; his death)
Denise Nickerson (born April 1, 1957) is an American former child actress best known for her roles as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as well as Amy Jennings and Nora Collins in the soap opera Dark Shadows.
Born in New York City, Nickerson made appearances in the late 1960s on such shows as The Doctors, and opposite Bill Bixby in an unsold television pilot called Rome Sweet Rome. Nickerson's big break came in 1968 when she joined the cast of ABC-TV's Dark Shadows, appearing as recurring characters Amy Jennings and Nora Collins from 1968-1970. Upon leaving Dark Shadows, she appeared in the 1971 television movie The Neon Ceiling.
In 1971, Nickerson was cast as the nymphet Lolita in the 1971 ill-fated musical, Lolita, My Love during its run on Boston, which closed on the road. Also at this time, Nickerson landed her signature role as gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. From 1972-73, Nickerson joined the cast of The Electric Company as "Allison", a member of the Short Circus music group. Producers saw the potential in the fresh-faced Nickerson and often had her singing lead on several songs, including "The Sweet Sweet Sway." She also guest starred as Pamela (one of two dates Peter Brady had on one night) in one of the final The Brady Bunch episodes, "Two Petes in a Pod". She also auditioned for the role of Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist but pulled out after her parents objected to the material presented in the script.
In 1973 Denise starred in the TV movie The Man Who Could Talk to Kids, opposite Peter Boyle and Scott Jacoby. In 1975 she appeared in the satiric, beauty-pageant inspired motion picture Smile, as Miss San Diego's Shirley Tolstoy (also starring a young Melanie Griffith and Annette O'Toole.)
Nickerson's career was temporarily put on hold in November 1976 when she was struck by a car while crossing the street. The injury landed her in a full leg cast for eight months. Afterwards, she appeared in the 1978 films Zero to Sixty and TV film Child of Glass.
Nickerson turned 21 in 1978, and opted to quit acting at that time. Since then, she has appeared on television sporadically, such as an episode of the 2000-2002 John O'Hurley version of To Tell the Truth, as contestant number two.
Nickerson has been married twice. Her first marriage was to Rick Keller in 1981; he died two years later of a brain aneurysm. Her second marriage was to Mark Willard in 1995; they had one son, Josh, then divorced in 1998.