The creepy, funny, awesome, and vibrant Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has entertained families for generations. After being considered a flop when it was first released in 1971, the film has managed huge success thanks to constant reruns in the '80s and '90s, meaning that children worldwide have experienced the wonderful world of Wonka.
45 years after the film was released, one of its talented leads, Gene Wilder, sadly passed away from complications of Alzheimer's disease at the age of 83. While Wilder's career was vast and varied, it's undoubtedly his role in Willy Wonka which has immortalized him in the heart of generations of children.
In tribute to Gene Wilder, and the film that you've all probably seen dozens of times, take a look at these amazing facts about Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, as well as some very cool behind-the-scenes photos of this famous flick:
1. The film was made at the insistence of the director's daughter
The 1971 film version came about after young Madeline Stuart, the daughter of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory director Mel Stuart, insisted that the book would be a fantastic movie, saying to the Los Angeles Times in 2012, "It was my favorite book at the time, and I told him this would make a great movie."
Madeline actually appears in the film as one of the children in the classroom scene, when the (rather eccentric) teacher asks the children how many Wonka bars they have eaten, seen here around the 45 second mark:
Her younger brother, Peter, also appears as the young boy who tells Charlie's teacher about the Golden Ticket contest just before he dismisses the class.
2. The movie showed a notorious Nazi
Just after Charlie finds a coin in the gutter and buys a chocolate bar, he wanders outside to find a ruckus at the newsstand because the finder of the fifth ticket has been announced as fraudulent. As the crowd swarms over the papers you see the picture of the fraud himself, a so called "gambler from Paraguay."
In reality the man was one of Hitler's last known henchmen, Martin Bormann. Check it out at the 1:51 mark:
The image was used again in the television newscast in the movie as well.
3. Roald Dahl hated the film version
Even though Roald Dahl is credited as one of the screenwriters on Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the author actually hated the film version so much he disowned Mel Stuart's version and refused any more versions of the book to be made during his lifetime, as well as the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Apparently he thought the film focused too much on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie.
Allegedly when Dahl was once staying at a hotel he unintentionally ended up watching some of the film, despite swearing never to see it. It was only after watching the film for 15 minutes that he realized what he was watching and immediately changed channels.
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4. There are two theories on why the name was changed
Despite Dahl's book being called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the film adaption was retitled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. There are two different stories about why this happened:
The first was that it was to place emphasis on Wonka's name as a marketing plot for Quaker Oats who had purchased the rights to the book and financed the movie in order to promote their new candy bar, which they named Wonka Bar.
The second story is that filmmakers were worried that the name 'Charlie' was seen in certain areas as a derogatory racial term for African-Americans, and it was easier to rename the film.
5. The Oompa Loompas were almost super offensive
In the Roald Dahl book, the Oompa Loompas were originally caricatures of African Pygmees. Luckily the producers sensibly realized that this was offensive, and they ended up orange instead.
6. While a candy room sounds like a dream come true for the kids, it wasn't it all was cracked up to be
Unfortunately for Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca, she didn't particularly like candy and had to be told one more than one occasion to look more like she enjoyed it.
On the flip side, Denise Nickerson, who played Violet, chewed so much chewing gum during her time as Violet that she ended up with 13 cavities in her teeth!
7. Gene Wilder took the role as Willy Wonka on one condition...
Gene Wilder wasn't the first choice to play Willy Wonka, but when he won the role he took it on one condition: that the film include the now famous scene of Willy Wonka limping forward on his cane out of his factory before falling into a perfect somersault and bouncing up to applause. Wilder told director Mel Stuart that it would be great for Wonka's character development "because from that time on, no one will know if I'm lying or telling the truth."
8. The chocolate room wasn't all edible sweets and happiness
While many of the things in the amazing chocolate room set were actually edible, unfortunately for poor Gene Wilder the delicate daffodil cup was made out of wax! For each take he had to take a bite and chew the cup, and then spit it out when the filming stopped. Another prop that wasn't particularly tasty was Violet's giant gummy bear, which only had edible ears. In addition, the famous chocolate river was made from 150,00 gallons of water mixed with chocolate powder and cream, according to the cast, after the river was left for a weekend the smell the following Monday was horrible!
You can also see that the rock Veruca uses to break open a strawberry jam filled ball was a very real rock, which actress Julie Dawn Cole didn't realize and cut her leg on. You can see the blood on her white stockings: