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Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka Letter: The Actor’s ‘Chocolate Factory’ Character Notes

Fun news for all you “Willy Wonka” fans: That iconic scene when Gene Wilder makes his grand entrance from his Chocolate Factory, loses his cane, then somersaults and pops up to great applause? It was all Wilder’s idea.

In a note from Gene Wilder to director Mel Stuart, Wilder pitches that scene in great detail, saying it’s important “because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

Wilder also had a great deal to say about the first few sketches of the costume that Wonka wears, calling them “lovely” but stating that he doesn’t “think of Willy as an eccentric who holds on to his 1912 Dandy’s Sunday suit and wears it in 1970, but rather just as an eccentric,” and that he’s “part of this world, part of another” (which may be the perfect way to describe Gene Wilder).

The actor even asked for a few changes to the costume: “I love the main thing — the velvet jacket — and I mean to show by my sketch the exact same color. But I’ve added two large pockets to take away from the svelt, feminine line … The hat is terrific, but making it 2 inches shorter would make it more special.”

Wilder’s portrayal of Wonka — his mastery of tongue-twisting lines and the ever-present glint in his eye — is nothing short of genius, so it’s interesting to see the input he had on the character.

The note and more can be found in Wilder’s memoir, “Kiss Me Like A Stranger.” The letter addressing the sketches is from the “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition boxset. You can read them both over on Letters of Note.

[via Letters of Note]

  • Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket)

  • Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket)

    After playing Charlie, Peter Ostrum quit acting, eventually becoming an veterinarian. (Yea, didn’t see that one coming either).

  • Julie Cole (Veruca Salt)

  • Julie Cole (Veruca Salt)

    Her bratty turn as Veruca Salt helped launch Julie Cole’s 40-year career in acting on stage, TV and film. Since “Wonka,” Cole has appeared on several British programs, including “Married for Life” and “EastEnders.”

  • Paris Themmen (Mike Tee Vee)

  • Paris Themmen (Mike Tee Vee)

    Since his gun-toting role as Mike Tee Vee, Paris Thermmen has appeared sporadically in films and TV programs, including a spot on “Star Trek: Voyager.”

  • Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde)

  • Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde)

    After playing Violet, Denise had roles on several TV shows and made-for-TV films. She retired from acting at the age of 21.

  • Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka)

  • Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka)

    By the time he was cast as Wonka, Gene Wilder was already successful, having starred in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Now far-and-away the most accomplished actor from the cast, Wilder went on to appear in films such as “Young Frankenstein,” “The Frisco Kid” and “Blazing Saddles.” After a guest role on “Will in Grace” in 2003, Wilder retired from acting.

  • Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe)

    Like Wilder, Jack Albertson was a successful actor before “Wonka,” starring in films such as “Son of Flubber” and “Man on a Thousand Faces.” Unfortunately, Jack would pass away ten years later at the age of 74.

  • Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop)

  • Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop)

    “Willy Wonka” was the beginning and end of acting for Michael Bollner, who, as the candy-loving Augustus, finds himself swept up in the river of chocolate. But, hey, what a way to go out!

Earlier on Moviefone:

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