“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” premiered 50 years ago on June 30, 1971 and gained a cult following over the years.
The film has become such a phenomenon that it was registered in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
Former child actors Peter Ostrum, Julie Dawn Cole, Michael Bollner, Paris Themmen and Denise Nickerson — who played Charlie Bucket, Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop, Mike Teavee and Violet Beauregarde respectively — appeared for a virtual reunion for Yahoo Entertainment in honor of the film’s anniversary.
The actors, who co-starred as the four lucky Golden Ticket winners who get to explore the wonderous Wonka Chocolate Factory, all had fond memories of exploring the whimsical film sets in Bavarian Germany and working with Gene Wilder. But they did reveal who the legendary comic thought was as annoying as their character.
Since shooting the movie, Themmen has been labeled a “notorious troublemaker on the set,” with Wilder calling him “a handful.”
“I can corroborate that,” the actor, known for playing the television-obsessed rascal Mike Teavee, confirmed. “I was younger than the others. I was 11, they were 13 and was naturally just sort of more high-spirited and rambunctious.”
Years after filming, the now-62-year-old had one brief reunion with Wilder while attending a fund-raiser screening of Wilder’s 1976 hit “Silver Streak” at the Avon Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut, where the famous actor confirmed his feelings.
“I sat at the back of the room and he gave his commentary and then I went up to the front of the room afterwards with my poster in hand,” Themmen recounted with a smile. “I said, ‘Hi, Gene, how you doing? I’m Paris Themmen, I was Mike Teavee in ‘Willy Wonka.’”
“And he said, ‘Oh you were a brat!’ And I flashed all the way back 50 years, or 40 years at that time, and said, ‘Well, I’m 50-something now and maybe not as much of a brat.’ And he signed my poster, ‘To my favorite brat.’”
Wilder died in 2016 at the age of 83 after a long and successful career acting in many classic films like “Young Frankenstein,” “The Producers” and “Blazing Saddles.”
Thinking back on their time filming with the iconic actor, Cole, who played Veruca Salt, said: “I think people kind of want us to tell you that he was like Willy Wonka offset, but he wasn’t.”
“He was such a lovely, kind man, very unassuming,” shared the actress known for playing the spoiled brat of the group.
“He was just down to earth, not pretentious, he was just a wonderful person to be around and to work with,” says Ostrum, who played the caring hero of the movie, Charlie Bucket.
The 50-year anniversary of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” comes on the heels of the announcement of a prequel to the famous film based on Roald Dahl’s book, starring Timothée Chalamet, with an arrival date already set for March 2023.