Acclaimed Flop: The movie received positive reviews from critics but was a disappointment at the box office, making Willy Wonka the first of at least threemovies based off of Dahl's work to become an Acclaimed Flop. It has since gained a bigger audience through television airings and home video releases.
Adored by the Network: Since their days as ABC Family, Freeform have frequently run this film as part of their weekend lineups, especially around holiday periods. Until the HBO networks reclaimed the TV rights to the 2005 adaptation of its source novel in 2014, ABC Family loved running both versions as a double feature!
Gene Wilder says "Good day, sir!" and "I said 'Good day'!" but never "I said 'Good day, sir!'" Similarly, his quote while Augustus is trapped in the pipe is "The suspense is terrible. I hope it'll last." rather than "The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts."
In the film, Wonka misquotes John Masefield's poem "All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by." He says "sail" instead of "steer."
Cut Song: An Edited for Syndication case — Mrs. Bucket's solo "Cheer Up, Charlie" is often cut from commercial TV airings at the director's request, as he felt it was not vital to the narrative. Since the Turn of the Millennium, it's become common to leave this in but cut the boat ride sequence instead.
The Danza: Madeline Stuart (Mel Stuart's daughter) as Madeline Durkin, the girl in Charlie's class who tells Mr. Turkentine she opened "about 100" Wonka bars.
A Willy Wonka Candy Company has existed since 1971, and was originally a tie-in to the film. It was started by Quaker Oats and then eventually became the property of Nestle. The company tried to launch Wonka chocolate bars twice, in 1971 and 2005, but both times they were relatively unsuccessful. Instead, the real hits out of the Wonka line have been candies that have nothing to do with the film at all, but reflect the fictional candy company's quirky ethos. In the late 90's, pre-existing Nestle candies such as Nerds, Sweet Tarts, Laffy Taffy and Fun Dip were moved to the Wonka brand, where they've thrived under new branding.
Deleted Scene: One scene, which was filmed but not included, featured a mountain climber finding a guru in the Himalayas. He asks what the meaning of life is, to which the guru requests a Wonka Bar. After opening it and not finding a Golden Ticket, the guru says "Life is a disappointment."
Disowned Adaptation: By most accounts Roald Dahl hated the finished film, to the point where he refused to allow a movie of its sequel to be made and wouldn't release movie rights to his other children's novels for more than 15 years. This was due to the casting of Gene Wilder (Dahl insisted that Spike Milligan should have been cast in the role) and to the extensive rewrites done to his screenplay received without his foreknowledge. Not helping matters was that Dahl reportedly butted heads with director Mel Stuart over the film's direction.
Strangely enough, Julie Dawn Cole actually had dinner with Dahl during filming and sat next to him during the premiere, claiming that in both times he seemed fine about the film. So it's a mystery how much this trope holds water.
DVD Commentary: Originally recorded for the 2001 DVD release that marked the film's 30th anniversary, it reunited the five child actors.
Mrs. Bucket's song "Cheer Up, Charlie" is often cut from commercial TV airings, and this was the director's idea — he felt the song was superfluous by that point in the story. Since the late 1990s, Freeform airings often cut the notoriously scary boat ride sequence.
Freeform uses two different cuts of the film: a condensed one that runs for two hours, and a wholesale one that runs for two and a half. Which one they use depends on what else they want to air and, by extension, the mood that they're in.
The cast wasn't allowed to see the Chocolate Room set until the scene where they first emerge into the room was shot, so their reactions are genuine. Likewise, the Inventing Room was also off-limits to the cast before filming.
Charlie's reaction to Wonka declaring he would get nothing due to defying the contract ("Good day sir!") is also genuine; in rehearsals Peter Ostrum was not told that Gene Wilder would be shouting at him. Since Wilder and Ostrum had become friends on the set, Wilder desperately wanted to tell Ostrum that he would be shouting so that Ostrum wouldn't think that they had stopped being friends.
For the riverboat scene, Wonka's ranting poem was not in the script (it's a lift from the novel), hence the disturbed looks on the actors' faces, who thought Wilder was actually losing his mind.
Speaking of the riverboat, it was on a track under the water, but the Oompa-Loompa supposedly steering the boat wasn't told this.
During the scene with Wonka's somersault, Denise Nickerson (Violet) genuinely thought that Gene Wilder (Wonka) had injured himself.
Mel Stuart deliberately ran Paris Themmen through the lines when Mike explained the technicalities of television to Wonka in the Wonkavision Room so often that Stuart got the right "nasty and pissy" attitude from Themmen he wanted for the scene, as that was how Themmen naturally felt at that point.
When the group hangs up their coats in the factory, they did not know that the hands were real and were going to grab their clothes.
Violet's look of discomfort as a blueberry is not acted. Denise Nickerson was sandwiched between two halves of a styrofoam ball which took some forty minutes to get in to, meaning she couldn't get out of it for lunch. In addition, the costume was nearly as wide as the Oompa-Loompa actors were tall, and she had to be rolled around a lot by them. According to Denise, the Oompa-Loompas "didn't have their blueberry driving license."
The factory scenes were (mostly) filmed in sequence. Once their respective downfall was filmed, the kids went home, which reinforced the dwindling party mentality amongst the actors. However, Denise Nickerson's shoe broke shortly before filming the blueberry scene, and a replacement had to be flown in from New York, causing them to switch Violet and Veruca's final scenes.
Julie Dawn Cole was reportedly not aware that she was to fall down the Chute after her number. The director only told her before shooting that she was to stand perfectly straight and not forget to sing.
The film underwent a full-script rewrite after Roald Dahl, who was commissioned to write the original screenplay, kept failing to meet deadlines.
According to the film's director, the producers changed the title of the film not only to promote the Wonka candy brand, but also due to the Unfortunate Implications revolving around the name "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."Explanation "Mister Charlie" is a slur used in black communities to refer to a white man in a position of power, and "chocolate" can easily be misconstrued as an insult to black people for obvious reasons. Thus, fear of offending African-American audiences became a big factor in altering the film's title, especially in light of the original novel containing several elements of Values Dissonance (the naming of an Indian prince as "Pondicherry" and the original depictions of the Oompa-Loompahs as African pygmies).
Fake Brit: Paris Themmen mentions in the DVD Commentary that he and Denise Nickerson "hung around Julie (Dawn Cole, who played Veruca) too much" and Julie's British accent rubbed off on them as a result. Paris points out certain lines in the film where he and Denise affected British accents for no good reason, and the takes were kept. He also discussed that loved ones watching the film could not recognize that the lines were spoken by Violet or Mike and not by Veruca.
Irony as She Is Cast: An inversion. Julie Dawn Cole actually hated chocolate, and was not a fan of filming the scene in which she scoops melted chocolate from one of the candy eggs. Reportedly Dahl himself thought Julie was a weird girl for not liking chocolate.
Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca, swiped a few props from the set, including a Golden Ticket and an Everlasting Gobstopper. However, she lost the mink coat that was made specifically for the movie, having apparently left it on the back of her chair when she went to lunch. The director yelled at her until she cried when he found out- it was real fur.
According to her memoir, Cole found the coat where she left it.
Not only that, but she also got a peek at the Chocolate Room early (the other children only saw it during the main filming).
On a darker note, Denise Nickerson (who played Violet), made her scenes and returned to school... and then, after two days, her face and hands start to turn blue! Oh, Crap!! It turned out that the paint used to make her face and hands blue went deep under her skin, and then slowly resurfaced during next few weeks. Talk about art imitating life!
The actors actually behave a lot like their respective characters during the DVD Commentary:
Denise Nickerson, Julie Dawn Cole, and Paris Themmen have a lively conversation throughout, with Themmen periodically making witty observations along the way;
Peter Ostrum was basically Mr. Exposition, having been the first of the five main children to arrive for filming and the last to leave;
Michael Bollner says very little, and then only when prompted;
In a somewhat related note, 2011 saw the release of I Want It Now!, Julie Dawn Cole's memoirs, featuring, in-depth, a first-hand recollection of her experiences filming Willy Wonka, as well as the subsequent reunions and commemorations of the movie over the years, with plenty of rare photos taken during the movie's production. As of 2015, she is the first and only "Wonka kid" to have published any recollections of making the film.
45th anniversary: The film's soundtrack was re-released on vinyl for the first time since 1980.
Never Work with Children or Animals: While most of the child actors were professional, especially Denise Nickerson (who already had a substantial career), Paris Themmen was an absolute nightmare during filming. At one point, he removed a glass dome in the inventing room that contained a colony of wasps. The set had to be evacuated and he was stung multiple times.
One-Book Author: Peter Ostrum was offered a lucrative multi-picture film deal after playing Charlie Bucket, but found film acting to be too much hard work. Instead, he quit acting, went to college and became a farm animal veterinarian in Upstate New York. For years, he declined to talk about the film, to the point where his wife didn't even know he was in it until years into their marriage! He's since cooled to the film and does annual school assemblies in his hometown where he answers student questions about the film and his career in veterinary medicine. He occasionally does Wonka-related events (such as the commentary for the 25th anniversary DVD and television reunions).
Upon learning of Gene Wilder's passing, Ostrum changed his social-media profile to read, "Former-child-actor, veterinarian, inherited a chocolate factory on 29 August 2016".
It was also the only acting credit for Michael Bollner, who played Augustus. He went to school and became a tax accountant.
Playing Gertrude: According to the novel, Grandpa Joe is said to be ninety-six-and-a-half years old. Jack Albertson was 63 at the time of filming.
Romance on the Set: Julie Dawn Cole and Denise Nickerson both had a crush on Peter Ostrum, so they would hang out with him on alternating days. It was a congenial version of the Type 3Love Triangle.
Studio Hop: Paramount distributed the movie during its premiere. After it flopped, they decided not to renew distribution rights. Warner Bros. then added the movie to their library after buying the production company, where it belongs to this day, and went on to produce two further adaptations of the original source material (the 2005 film and 2013 West End musical).
According to her memoir, Julie Dawn Cole thought it would be in character for Veruca to do a Lying Finger Cross when they promise not to show the Everlasting Gobstoppers to anyone. The director was unfamiliar with the gesture, but once she explained it, he filmed it in a closeup.
While filming "Pure Imagination," the only rule for the cast was that they could not stand in front of Gene Wilder. Cole and Denise Nickerson decided to throw in some shoving of each other as they descend the stairs. Also, Paris Themmen improvised the bit where he steps in front of Wilder and doesn't step back with him.
According to Paris Themmen, the "educated eggdicator" line was thrown in by Jack Albertson.
Gene Wilder and Roy Kinnear also ad-libbed adjusting each other's ties for the last bit of the golden goose scene.
Roy Kinnear also added the weak addition of “Rowing...” during Wonka’s poem.
Unintentional Period Piece: From the dated special effects to some of the slang used to the technology and pop culture depicted (with a fair amount of psychedelic surrealism thrown in) the film certainly evokes its 1971 origins. Lampshaded in the DVD Commentary, watching the psychedelic Scanimate effects during a segment of an Oompa-Loompa song:
Denise Nickerson: "C'mon, that was pretty good for 1971!"
Paris Themmen: *deadpan monotone* "I'm freakin' out."
Vindicated by Cable: The film was a failure at the box office, but has become a classic in the years since thanks to repeats on cable.
Wag the Director: Gene Wilder insisted on the disability fake out / somersault bit being included in Wonka's introduction because he had read the book, and saw Willy Wonka as something of a trickster. Mel Stuart, who had basically waived audition protocol and simply given Gene the part based on his resume, was not about to turn Gene down. Gene was also in full control of his costume, from the dimensions to the colors to the number of pockets. Read his thoughts here.
Jean Stapleton was offered the role of Mike Teevee's mother at the same time she was also being offered the role of Edith Bunker. Even the director, who begged her to be in the movie, later admitted that she made the right choice.
Fred Astaire was interested in playing Willy Wonka, but was ruled out as being too old.
Joel Grey was also considered for the Wonka role. While he was a good match for the character's description in the novel, the filmmakers didn't think he would have the larger-than-life, commanding presence the character requires on screen, since he wasn't much taller than the kids would be.
The songwriters wanted Sammy Davis, Jr. to play Bill the candy shop owner, but director Mel Stuart felt that Stunt Casting the role would be too distracting for the audience and hurt the distinction between the real world the first half of the film takes place in and the unreal world of the factory. He nixed the idea of having "I've Got a Golden Ticket" become a Crowd Song for similar reasons.
The entirety of Monty Python expressed interest in playing Willy Wonka, but they were all rejected because they weren't very well-known outside of the UK.
Roald Dahl reportedly wanted Spike Milligan to play the part of Willy Wonka. The fact that Milligan was not cast as Wonka was allegedly one of the reasons Dahl refused to allow Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator to be made into a movie, even writing that decision into his will. (Dahl also would have been happy with Peter Sellers, but Milligan was his first choice.)