The One Condition Gene Wilder Needed Met to Play Willy Wonka

The One Condition Gene Wilder Needed Met to Play Willy Wonka

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would have been good as it was, but with Gene Wilder it was even better. He had just one stipulation though for playing the titular role and it was something that no one really understood until he explained it. In fact if not for Wilder, Willy Wonka might have been a lot different character than we got to see in the original. He might have been someone morel like Johnny Depp’s version which was, well, creepy and more like Edward Scissorhands meets the local candy man. Even Wilder’s version was a bit dark in spots and a little loony here and there.

But the one stipulation he had for this movie was that he be allowed to hobble his way out to meet the crowd, leaning on a cane. He would then pretend to lose the cane as it stuck fast into a flagstone and then, realizing this, would somersault forward, springing up to show that he was in fact quite well. There was a very good reason for him wanting this and it kind of set the tone for the whole movie from that point on. He wanted the audience and the cast to guess just when he was telling the truth and when he was lying.  Wilder didn’t want anyone to know what was going on save for the director and those that needed to know. It would also explain the disturbing tunnel scene in which his fellow cast members thought that he was going genuinely crazy for a few moments during his rant.

Wilder had a strange way about him and a look that could make you simply freeze as you tried to decide just which face you were really seeing, the man behind the character or the character that was hidden within the man. As Willy Wonka he could be charming, endearing, and completely lovable, but he could also be dark, creepy, and entirely unpredictable. Johnny Depp took this a few steps further in his version of the role and created something so  unique that it made Wilder’s look positively warm and fuzzy. That’s the difference between actors however, and in truth there was a point and time that Wilder wasn’t even thinking about doing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

It was a fleeting moment in film history but it almost did happen. Thankfully his stipulation was met and his interest was revived so that he could come onscreen and give a performance that has lasted throughout the years as one of the most impressive in any movie ever made. A lot of kids have been raised on the the tale of Willy Wonka no matter that the main character was supposed to be Charlie. In both movies Wonka has taken a main role while the part of Charlie is seen as important but hasn’t been much more than a supporting role.

Both Wilder and Depp are larger than life actors that unfortunately had the quality of drowning out just about anyone with their raw talent and larger than life personas.

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