In a recent news article, Gene Wilder who played Willy Wonka in the 1971 children’s classic ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory‘ said he thought the 2005 reboot, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘, directed by Tim Burton was an insult to his film. I love Gene Wilder and loved the 1971 film but I think he is wrong about Burton’s adaptation and the author of the original book might have thought the same. Come on Gene, can’t we love both versions?
Well, the movie came out, and audiences ate it up like candy, to the sweet tune of $475 million worldwide, but Wilder still hasn’t cooled off. Last night, at a book event at New York’s 92nd Street Y, he called the remake an “insult,” and went out of his way to lay the blame at Burton’s feet. “It’s probably Warner Brothers’ insult, I think. I like Warner Bros for other reasons, but to do that with Johnny Depp, who I think is a good actor and I like him,” Wilder said. “But I don’t care for that director and he’s a talented man, but I don’t care for him for doing stuff like he did.”
The author of the original book Roald Dahl however disliked the 1971 musical film:
Nevertheless his playful performance failed to win over Dahl, who remained convinced that his first choice – comedian Spike Milligan – would have been better for the role.
A cast of suitably bratty children, Oscar-nominated songs by Anthony Newley and a disturbing, psychedelic boat ride sequence did not prevent Dahl feeling “disappointed” in the movie.
“He thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie,” said Liz Attenborough, trustee of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Buckinghamshire. “For him the book was about Charlie.”
While that may have irritated the author, the film’s deviations from the original Chocolate Factory plot infuriated him.
Re-worked by The Omen writer David Seltzer, the movie turned sweetshop rival Slugworth into a Wonka spy and encouraged Charlie and Grandpa Joe to belch their way to salvation.
His second wife, Felicity Dahl, understood the author’s frustration. “They always want to change a book’s storyline,” she said in 1996.
“What makes Hollywood think children want the endings changed for a film, when they accept it in a book?”
Being familiar with the book and other Dahl stories I have to say I thought Burton’s film was closer to the book than Wilder’s version. The Dahl family approved of the 2005 reboot and until then the author had refused all requests to remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Again I loved Gene Wilder’s version. While writing this post I’ve been humming the song “Pure Imagination“. The 1971 film is and should be a classic but it is a different animal than the book and the 2005 adaptation of the book. Can’t we love all of them equally.