Wonka: Timothée Chalamet says people didn’t want him to ‘mess up’ role

Cast member Timothee Chalamet attends the world premiere of "Wonka"Reuters

Timothée Chalamet has said he was aware people did not want him to “mess up” his portrayal of the much-loved character Willy Wonka.

“People are very protective over the characters they love, particularly Willy Wonka,” he told BBC News.

He was speaking as stars of Wonka, also including Hugh Grant and Olivia Colman, hit the red carpet for Tuesday’s world premiere in London.

Fans queued for hours to see the cast arrive at the Royal Festival Hall.

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The musical fantasy film is based the classic children’s book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which has been adored by generations of children and adults alike.

It tells the backstory of eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, one of Roald Dahl’s most beloved characters.

Chalamet, 27, is the third Hollywood actor to step into the shoes of the famous confectioner.

Timothee Chalamet takes selfies with fans as he arrives for the world premiere of Wonka at the Royal Festival Hall in London

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Acknowledging the popularity of the character, he said: “They don’t want to see people mess it up.”

But he added: “We were in great hands with [director] Paul King, and this is not the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this is a different story of how Willy Wonka became Willy Wonka. I think we did a great job.”

The American and French star follows in the footsteps of Gene Wilder, who starred in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and Johnny Depp, who appeared in Tim Burton’s 2005 adaptation.

Speaking on the red carpet, Chalamet said he “grew up” with the original film adaptation, and that he was also a big fan of the later film.

But he said his portrayal of Wonka was aiming to do something different.

“This isn’t the Willy Wonka with a couple of screws loose, that we see in the Gene Wilder and the other version,” he said. “This is a young, ambitious, hopeful, won’t-take-no for an answer, sprightly, light Willy.”

Chalamet who rose to fame in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name and went on to star in Dune, has become an internet sensation and Hollywood’s latest heartthrob.

Fans flocked to see him arrive at the premiere and were screaming his name as he walked in.

One, 21-year-old Manis, said she had queued since early in the morning to catch a glimpse of the star. “I love Timmy, he’s such a great actor, and so close to his fans.”

Anna Elisabet Eberstein and British actor Hugh Grant attend the world premiere of the movie 'Wonka'

EPA

Starring alongside Chalamet is Hugh Grant, but not as you’ve usually known him.

He takes on the role of the “something of a whopper” Oompa-Loompa named Lofty, complete with green hair and an orange face.

It is a departure for Grant, 63, who is best known for playing quintessentially English gentlemen in films like Notting Hill, Love Actually and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

But his casting faced criticism over the decision not to give the role to an actor with dwarfism.

Oompa-Loompas were played by actors with dwarfism in two previous films based on Roald Dahl’s book.

The film’s director, who also made Paddington, defended the decision.

“Dahl describes [the Oompa Loompas] as no higher than my knee or about the size of a medium size doll,” Paul King told BBC News.

“We tried to use the iconic look that they came up in the 1971 movie with the green hair and the orange skin, and merge that with the way Dahl described them, in a way I think they may have done, had they had the technology we have today.”

Cast member Calah Lane attends the world premiere of "Wonka", at Royal Festival Hall, in London, Britain, November 28, 2023.

Reuters

Wonka also teams up with a young girl called Noodle, played by Calah Lane, on his way to inventing a chocolate that makes those who eat it fly.

Lane, 14, told the BBC she was “so excited” to be in the film. “I just can’t believe it,” she said.

She added that she was now “definitely” a fan of Dahl, after being part of the production.

Olivia Colman attends the world premiere of "Wonka"

Reuters

Oscar winner Olivia Colman plays villainous shopkeeper Mrs Scrubit, and Mr Bean actor Rowan Atkinson features as a priest. Sally Hawkins and former Great British Bake Off presenter Matt Lucas are also in the fray.

Filming for Wonka began in the UK in September 2021, taking place at locations including Lyme Regis, Bath, St Albans, Oxford and the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, south-east London – as well as at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, near Watford.

Wonka is out in UK cinemas on 8 December 2023.

Related Topics

  • Roald Dahl
  • Olivia Colman
  • Film
  • London
  • Hugh Grant
  • Dwarfism
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