AFI Movie Club: WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Adapted from Roald Dahl’s best-selling children’s novel, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY stars Gene Wilder – who participated in the AFI Life Achievement Award tribute to Mel Brooks and whose work is featured across several of AFI’s lists. 

Watch Tyra Banks introduce the film:

 

Movie Trivia about WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

DID YOU KNOW? 

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was originally titled CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY after the 1964 best-selling children’s novel by Roald Dahl upon which it is based. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Producer David L. Wolper purchased the screen rights to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for $500,000 in 1969. Wolper also gave Dahl the job of adapting his novel as screenwriter and a portion of the film’s profits. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was the first and only film that lead actor Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, ever made. The filmmakers interviewed hundreds of boys before hiring Ostrum, who joined the production only a few days before principal photography began. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Shortly after David L. Wolper purchased the screen rights to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” he secured a production deal with the food conglomerate Quaker Oats Company to finance two family-friendly feature films and various television programs. Wolper later revealed that Quaker was eager for product placement, as the company was intending to market a new “Wonka” candy bar. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

The film is generally faithful to Roald Dahl’s bestseller, with several notable exceptions – including the elimination of Charlie’s father, and the children’s allowance of only one chaperone instead of two, which were characterized in the novel. This reduction of actors cut costs for the production. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Willy Wonka’s iconic introduction of emerging from the factory with a limp only to surprise everyone with a somersault was one of Gene Wilder’s conditions for accepting the role. When director Mel Stuart questioned why, Wilder replied that “from that time on, no one will know if [Wonka is] lying or telling the truth.” Stuart responded, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?” and Wilder said, “I’m afraid that’s the truth.” 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Willy Wonka paraphrases and quotes William Shakespeare throughout the film, including a passage from “The Merchant of Venice”: “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Joel Grey was the original choice for the character of Willy Wonka, and Jean Stapleton turned down the role of Mrs. Teevee ironically to appear on TV in ALL IN THE FAMILY, a show that went on to make her a household name. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Sammy Davis, Jr., was interested in the part of Bill, the owner of the candy store. Although the role would ultimately be played by Aubrey Woods, Davis’s rendition of the song “The Candy Man” would earn him his only number-one hit and would become a part of his repertoire for years following. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

The face in the psychedelic tunnel scene is none other than Walon Green, screenwriter of THE WILD BUNCH and a friend of director Mel Stuart. According to Stuart, Green is the only person who would agree to let a millipede crawl on his face for the sake of a children’s film. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Richard Rodgers and Henry Mancini were originally recruited to write the movie’s soundtrack, but both declined. The film’s songwriters, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, had composed several musicals and hit songs previously, but WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY marked their feature film debut as collaborators. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Since most of the filming took place on location in Munich and at soundstages in Geiselgasteig, Germany, the production was protested by IASTE members, who viewed the film as a “runaway production” and accused the filmmakers of cutting costs by shooting abroad. Final scenes were shot at the Paramount Studio lot in Los Angeles. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Original Score, and Gene Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical or Comedy. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY takes place in a fantasy world of “pure imagination,” but its themes reflect real life lessons for children. Can you name some of the pitfalls the kids face in their quest to take over the factory? Do you think they deserve their fates? 

-The creation and consumption of sweets in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is represented as both a treasured reward and a dangerous source of greed and indulgence. Considering that Charlie comes from dire poverty, can you see ways in which the factory and its products depict other aspects of society? 

-WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was supposed to be followed by a sequel, but author Roald Dahl protested, claiming he did not like the treatment of his original characters and that Willy Wonka received too much focus. Do you believe Willy Wonka overly dominates the story? If you’ve read CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, do you think the movie gives the novel an adequate adaptation? 

-Who is your favorite character in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY? Would you ever consider entering the strange realm of the factory, if you had found a golden ticket? Would you wish to take over Willy Wonka’s business? 

-Is there a song that sticks in your head? When you remember it, do you connect it to a particular scene in the movie? What role does music play in guiding the story? 

-How would you rate WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY? 

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, writer David Seltzer talks about working on the film:

 

 

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