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Film

Why Roald Dahl hated Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka

The cinematic portrayals of Willy Wonka have always interested fans of the original novel by Roald Dahl. Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp interpreted the character in their own ways, even though Wilder’s rendition of the iconic figure has emerged as the definitive performance within the context of the history of cinema.

Currently, many film fans are also looking forward to a brand new project titled Wonka. The upcoming project focus on the early experiences of the character before the establishment of the famous chocolate factory. Fascinatingly, the role is going to be played by none other than the trailblazing Timothée Chalamet, with Paul King attached as the director.

Wilder’s portrayal of Wonka still remains fresh in the minds of the viewers who witnessed the magic of Mel Stuart’s 1971 classic musical. For his work, Wilder received critical acclaim and even picked up a Golden Globe nomination for the Best Actor but one important person hated what Wilder did to the role and that was Roald Dahl.

According to Donald Sturrock – Dahl’s friend and the writer of Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, the novelist was against the casting from the beginning: “He felt the Gene Wilder casting was wrong. His ideal casting was [surreal English comedian] Spike Milligan and he said Milligan was really up for doing it. He even shaved his beard off to do a screen test.”

Reportedly, the writer felt that Wilder’s interpretation of the character was wildly wrong which ruined the cinematic experience. Not only that, Dahl disowned the entire project because of the deviations from the original novel and hated the music which he scathingly described as “saccharine, sappy and sentimental”.

“I think he felt Wonka was a very British eccentric,” Sturrock added. “Gene Wilder was rather too soft and didn’t have a sufficient edge. His voice is very light and he’s got that rather cherubic, sweet face. I think [Roald, below] felt…there was something wrong with [Wonka’s] soul in the movie – it just wasn’t how he imagined the lines being spoken.”

Dahl’s second wife Felicity also commented on the project in 1996 and attacked the film industry for manipulating the creation of Dahl into something different: “They always want to change a book’s storyline. What makes Hollywood think children want the endings changed for a film, when they accept it in a book.”

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