Denise Nickerson (born April 1, 1957) is a former child actress, best known for her role as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
She started acting in the mid-60s. She appeared in an episode of Flipper and had a recurring role of Amy Jennings on Dark Shadows, along with musicals and TV movies. In 1970, she was cast in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
At 13, Nickerson was the oldest and most experienced of the five principal child actors. She became fast friends with Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt. The two both developed a crush on Peter Ostrum, who was cast as Charlie Bucket, and created a system where they would alternate hanging out with him on specific days. This rivalry spilled into filming itself, with the girls having on-screen feuds in the Chocolate Room.
Like the other “naughty children” in Willy Wonka, she returned home after completing her downfall scene. For Nickerson, this involved her infamous transformation into a blueberry, which required her to be in a giant styrofoam ball for eight hours. When she returned home, she was sitting in math class when suddenly the blue makeup began to resurface through her pores. Fortunately, it eventually cleared up.
After the film, Nickerson had a recurring role on The Electric Company and an episode of The Brady Bunch. She auditioned for the lead role in The Exorcist and was one of the three actresses shortlisted, but her parents objected to the material. She retired from acting in 1978.
Today, Nickerson lives in Colorado. She is active on Twitter.