Paul King, the visionary behind the Paddington series, brings his childhood fascination with Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to life in “”Wonka.” The director recalls how Dahl’s story captivated him as a child, its blend of comedy, magic, and emotional depth resonating through the years. “I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” says King. “I read it again and again until the pages fell out of the cover. I remember loving the wild comedy, all the crazy characters, and the magic and mayhem of the chocolate factory.” Now, King presents a fresh take on this beloved tale, focusing on Willy Wonka’s early adventures in chocolate-making.
A Dynamic Duo: King and Heyman’s Creative Synergy
Years later, King would read it again from the perspective of an adult – and he found new things to love about the story! “When David [Heyman, producer] mentioned the idea of making a Wonka movie, I read it again and realized it also has an incredibly rich, almost Dickensian emotional core,” shares the director. “Charlie is such a kind, decent little boy and his family’s poverty causes them such suffering. The fact he goes on to inherit the factory, a more wonderful gift than he could ever have dreamt, had me in floods of tears – and the prospect of trying to make a film which captured Dahl’s spirit was too exciting to turn down.”
Wonka tells the story of Willy Wonka’s younger days, when he was just starting out as a chocolate-maker hoping to share his chocolate with the world by setting up shop at the cathedral of candy known as the Galeries Gourmet – with nothing but a few sovereigns (coins) and a hat full of dreams. A prequel to the 2005 hit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka is written by King and produced by David Heyman, himself no stranger to magical worlds, having produced all Harry Potter movies.
Working with Heyman is “a true creative partnership,” says King. “I love David’s ideas, his taste and sensibility. He’s my first audience and the only person as tough on the film as I am. We share the same aspirations, and the same pain when we feel we’ve fallen short. He’s a relentless perfectionist, and not only supports me every step of the way.”
A Star-Studded Ensemble
The film’s genius filmmaking team is complemented by a very talented ensemble cast, led by Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka. “Timothée gives an absolutely extraordinary performance,” says King. “Willy is strange and unnerving, funny and charming but with a glint of steel, and Timothée somehow keeps all these plates spinning at once. He needed to be able to sing and dance and deliver a very carefully choreographed performance, yet also dig deep into his emotions, and I was constantly amazed.”
In the film, Willy has a very much-needed friend in Noodle, played by a “brilliant young actress called Calah Lane.” Supporting but no less whimsical characters are played by a powerhouse cast that includes Olivia Colman, Sally Hawkins, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson. “Rowan is one of my longtime comedy heroes and it was an honor and delight to work with him,” says King of the actor beloved the world over for playing Mr. Bean.
Watch Noodle in this “Try One” clip from the film:
Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa?
In an unexpected yet delightful casting choice, Hugh Grant portrays an Oompa Loompa. King explains that Grant’s voice inspired this decision, envisioning him as a scornful yet humorous character “The Oompa Loompas don’t have much dialogue in the books but they do have these long songs where they take an almost gleeful pleasure in the demise of all the ghastly children who tour the factory,” says King. “They’re so funny and biting and scornful, and as I was reading them, Hugh’s voice kept coming into my head. From there, it wasn’t a huge step to go, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to see him eighteen inches high with bright green hair and orange skin?’ It was perfect.” The result is an amusing portrayal of an iconic character, promising to add a unique twist to the film.
Watch Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa in this “Funny Little Man” clip from the film:
A Feast for the Senses
Of course, the movie wouldn’t be complete without the chocolates! Of the many chocolate creations in Wonka, does King have any favorites? “Well, the Hoverchocs are delicious,” shares the director. “Sadly, they don’t literally make you fly, but we had our very own chocolate maker on the team, Gabrielle Cugno, who made the most exquisite creations. And I can personally vouch for the fact they are the most delicious chocolates I’ve ever had. You bite into them and there’s that perfect chocolatey snap, and as they melt in your mouth, you taste more and more delicate flavors. My favorite part of the whole process was tasting her chocolate (which I did far more often than was technically necessary). I think I gained about fifty pounds.”
Watch this “A Good Chocolate” clip from the film:
A Christmas Treat for All
A magical world full of fun and colorful characters and lots and lots of sweet treats, “Wonka is the perfect Christmas movie,” says the director. “It’s like a great chocolate. It’s got a fun, colorful exterior and a warm, sweet center which will leave you with a delicious aftertaste! And while it would be great fun to scoff the whole box down on your own, you’re better off sharing it with your family and friends.”
Experience the Magic
Get ready for a holiday filled with enchantment and sweet surprises! “Wonka” opens in Philippine cinemas on December 6, a week ahead of its U.S. release. Don’t miss this whimsical journey into the world of Willy Wonka, perfect for the festive season.
Directed by Paul King, with a screenplay he co-wrote with Simon Farnaby. Produced by David Heyman, Alexandra Derbyshire and Luke Kelly.
Starring alongside Chalamet are Calah Lane (“The Day Shall Come”), Emmy and Peabody Award winner Keegan-Michael Key (“The Prom,” “Schmigadoon”), Paterson Joseph (“Vigil,” “Noughts + Crosses”), Matt Lucas (“Paddington,” “Little Britain”), Mathew Baynton (“The Wrong Mans,” “Ghosts”), Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water,” the “Paddington” films, “Spencer”), Rowan Atkinson (the “Johnny English” and “Mr. Bean” films, “Love Actually”), Jim Carter (“Downton Abbey”), with Oscar winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”). The film also stars Natasha Rothwell (“White Lotus,” “Insecure”), Rich Fulcher (“Marriage Story,” “Disenchantment”), Rakhee Thakrar (“Sex Education,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”), Tom Davis (“Paddington 2,” “King Gary”) and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (“Paddington 2,” “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” “Mary Poppins Returns”).
Join the conversation online and use the hashtag #WonkaMovie
Based on the extraordinary character at the center of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Roald Dahl’s most iconic children’s book and one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, “Wonka” tells the wondrous story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today. “Wonka” is an intoxicating mix of magic and music, mayhem and emotion, all told with fabulous heart and humor. Starring Timothée Chalamet in the title role, this irresistibly vivid and inventive big screen spectacle will introduce audiences to a young Willy Wonka, chock-full of ideas and determined to change the world one delectable bite at a time—proving that the best things in life begin with a dream, and if you’re lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible.
Photo & Video Credit: “Warner Bros. Pictures”