There are few movie locations more memorable than the chocolate factory in the 1971 classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
A place where chocolate rivers churn and teacups can be nibbled on, the factory brought together darkness and fun in a deliciously imaginative concoction of candy and cruelty.
Having gained a cult following in the decades since, many regard the movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book as being among their all-time favourite films. However, there is one very important person who didn’t care for it one bit.
Dahl himself hated the film, and apparently described it as ‘crummy’ according to 2010 biography Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl.
Written by family friend Donald Sturrock, this biography outlines some of the reasons why Dahl held the film in such contempt, reasons that included the casting of Gene Wilder as the eccentric factory owner.
Revealing Dahl would have preferred Spike Milligan or Peter Sellers in the role, Sturrock wrote:
He had serious reservations about Gene Wilder’s performance as Wonka, which he thought ‘pretentious’ and insufficiently ‘gay (in the old fashioned sense) and bouncy’.
Dahl also took issue with the widely-beloved musical score – which was nominated for an Academy Award – and didn’t like the approach taken by director Mel Stuart.
Despite reportedly being paid $300,000 to pen the original draft of the screenplay, Dahl was left displeased by many of the changes introduced by screenwriter David Seltzer during a significant rewrite, changes that included the Slugworth subplot.
Over the years, Dahl reportedly came to tolerate the film, and even appreciated some aspects of it. However, he never loved it and apparently used to switch it off whenever it came on the telly.
Dahl’s dislike of the film also resulted in the scrapping of a sequel proposed by Seltzer, a movie that would have been based on Dahl’s follow-up book, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972).
For those who haven’t read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, this is quite a different story to the original, but still has plenty of the quirky humour and occasional scary bits that mark it out as being very much within the Dahl universe.
The action in this book moves away from the factory and up into space, picking up straight after the events of Charlie’s first adventure.
With Wonka as their guide, Charlie and the rest of the Bucket family soar beyond the clouds in the great glass elevator. Here they encounter The Vermicious Knids, a species of man-eating aliens that attempt to break into the elevator.
The tale includes an invitation to the White House, shape-shifting and grandparents being transformed into babies. Despite not being quite as well known as the original, it’s an exciting story and Seltzer was keen to get it adapted as a movie.
However, Dahl was so unhappy with the first book’s adaptation, that he point blank refused to allow Seltzer to get his hands on the sequel.
Interestingly, as per Esquire, Gene Wilder was not a fan of the Tim Burton remake, describing it as ‘insult’ during a 2013 interview.
Now Netflix is taking on the brave task of adapting a series of Dahl novels, which will include the very first onscreen outing for Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
The film will be written, directed and executive produced by Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit), who will also head up a new adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. No pressure then…
You can now stream Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on Netflix now.
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