Original ‘Willy Wonka’ Stars Sound Off on Actor Taking Role Made Famous by Gene Wilder in Upcoming Prequel Film

by Emily Morgan

Actors from the 1971 Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory have opened up about their thoughts on a younger actor taking over the iconic role made famous by Gene Wilder. 

Paris Themmen, who played Mike Teavee in the original, recently opened up during an interview about Warner Bros.’ choice to book 25-year-old Timothée Chalamet to play a younger version of Willy Wonka in the upcoming prequel. 

During the interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Themmen said Timothée Chalamet is “a talented actor,” but he doesn’t “have to be as good” as Wilder for the upcoming film titled Wonka.

The interview was part of a virtual reunion celebrating the film’s 50th anniversary. In addition to Themmen, his former co-stars Peter Ostrum, Julia Dawn Cole, and Michael Bolner, also weighed in. They played Charlie Bucket, Veruca Salt, and Augustus Gloop, respectively.

“One nice thing for them is they don’t have to do a direct comparison because it’s a prequel rather than a remake,” Themmen said. “So he doesn’t necessarily have to be as good as Gene was. Which obviously is a hugely difficult thing to do.”

Former ‘Willy Wonka’ Stars Open up About Warner Bros.’ Upcoming Prequel

The actor also added that while Chalamet might not bring the same enthusiasm to the role as Wilder, he said he already embodies much of the same look Wilder had. The Blazing Saddles star passed away in 2016. 

“Talented actor,” Themmen said of Chalamet. “I don’t know if he has the wild eyes that Gene has, but he’s kind of got the hair. And a general look that’s kind of similar.”

Although some of the fans might object to the prequel, Ostrum said the new twist would add to the legacy.

“You can’t kill Wonka,” said Ostrum, who played Charlie — the loveable child who found a coveted Golden Ticket in the story. “It just gets played over and over again, whether the original or the remake with Johnny Depp.”

Ostrum also added that the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which saw Depp taking on the role of famous candymaker, helped make younger viewers interested in the tale. 

“That brought attention back to our film. Kids saw Johnny Depp’s version, their parents said, ‘You need to see the original,'” he added. “Anything that talks about Wonka is good for the Wonka story. It’s a great story, and it needs to be retold, regardless of who’s producing it or who’s making it.”

During the interview, the cast also commended Wilder. Cole added that he was nothing like his on-screen character. “I think people kind of want us to tell you that he was like Willy Wonka offset, but he wasn’t,” she said. “He was such a lovely, kind man, very unassuming.”