Even now, fourty four years after its release in 1971, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that wasn’t charmed and enchanted by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Based on the classic children’s book by Roald Dahl, Wonka transported us to a “world of pure imagination” that viewers got to explore vicariously through Charlie Bucket and his fellow Golden Ticket winners. In celebration of maintaining “family film staple” status for 44 years, the Today show sat down with some of the original cast members for a sugary-sweet reunion.Among the attendees were Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Paris Themmen (Mike TeeVee), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloope), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde) and Rusty Goffe (head Oompa Loompa). Noticeably absent was Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka himself), but understandably so, as he’s been in retirement since 2003. In fact, the only cast member that’s still in the movie-making business is Goffe.
You can feel the closeness of the cast as they sat together, answering questions and debunking myths (the chocolate river was, unfortunately, not actually made of chocolate.) Themmen verbalizes this sentiment when he says:
“We think of ourselves as part of a family. Maybe a bit of a dysfunctional family, but a family really.”
The cast had nothing but good things to say about production or the side affects of fame on child actors. They only had kind words about Wilder as well, divulging that there was no “keep the children away from Mr. Wilder” type rules or vibes on set; he was always an accessible presence and didn’t treat them any differently due to their age.
Nickerson sums their experience making the movie and its aftermath up perfectly:
“Look, I mean, we are the fortunate ones. We’re here. We got to really see and experience it. And the first thing people do when they find out who we are is they smile!”
They’ve termed that reaction “The Wonka Effect”, and 44 years hasn’t seemed to lessen The Wonka Effect’s intensity one bit.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released in theaters June 30th, 1971.