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Film

The bizarre condition under which Gene Wilder played 'Willy Wonka'

The colourful attire of Roald Dahl’s eccentric character Willy Wonka has been donned multiple times by icons like Gene Wilder. However, there has been more global interest in it recently because it was announced that the next in line to star as Willy Wonka is none other than the supremely talented Timothée Chalamet who has signed onto a new project.

This is the next step in the meteoric trajectory of Chalamet’s career as he is set to following in the footsteps of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp. Structured as a fantasy musical, the new film is titled Wonka and will be directed by Paul King who will explore the events that came before Dahl’s narrative in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Most fans and critics still consider Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the iconic role in Mel Stuart’s 1971 interpretation Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory to be the definitive one. Originally marketed as a children’s film, Stuart’s unique artistic vision and Wilder’s performance contributed to the creation of a bonafide cult classic.

One person who was clearly annoyed with the artistic liberties that the 1971 film took as well as the emphasis on the character of Willy Wonka was none other than Roald Dahl. He famously expressed his disappointment at the casting of Wilder, claiming that someone like Spike Milligan would have been much better even though that seems absurd to us now.

Before Wilder agreed to take on what would come to be known as one of the finest performances of his career, he actually demanded that his character had a limp and undertook the arduous task of a somersault. Without these agreements in place, Wilder was not willing to go ahead with the production at all.

He later explained his vision by outlining what he had in his mind when he saw the role at first: “When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet.”

Adding, “As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself; but I keep on walking, until I realise that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.”

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