While it is hardly his only major role, Wilder is still best-known for playing a whimsical and almost-sad Willy Wonka in the 1971 musical version of Roald Dahl‘s classic novel. The film had plenty of its own twists on the original “Chocolate Factory” story, but the overall plot stuck impressively close to the book. From his comments, it sounds like Wilder thinks that was the right choice.
Wilder made his comments about “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” during a public conversation with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne on Thursday (June 13). When the topic of Burton’s version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” came up, Wilder had little nice to say about it.
“I think it’s an insult,” the actor reportedly said. “It’s probably Warner Bros.’ insult.”
But it wasn’t just the studio that irritated Wilder. He was equally displeased with Burton’s direction. “[The movie’s star] Johnny Depp, I think, is a good actor, but I don’t care for that director,” Wilder explained. “He’s a talented man, but I don’t care for him doing stuff like he did.”
What was it that Wilder didn’t care for specifically? The actor did not elaborate on that, but it’s likely that changes between the source material and the Burton film were involved. Depp’s Wonka, after all, was given a brand-new back-story filled with daddy issues. The result was a Willy Wonka who was as much a disturbingly stunted man-boy as the almost-wicked, crazy genius seen in the book.
Of course, Wilder’s version of the character took liberties as well — the literary Wonka didn’t sing and wasn’t the least bit sweet. He left that to the candy.