Why Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka Crushed Johnny Depp's Model

Carla Harmon
August 31, 2016

After he died, a family member released a statement sharing that Wilder didn't want his Alzheimer's diagnosis to be revealed, so that "countless young children that would smile or call out to him 'there's Willy Wonka, ' would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness".


Ostrum played Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


"It's kind of like losing a parent", he said. The last film - with Wilder playing a California-born descendant of the mad scientist, insisting that his name is pronounced Frahn-ken-SHTEEN - was co-written by Brooks and Wilder and earned the pair an Oscar nod for adapted screenplay. Ostrum notes the irony here, pointing out that the film wasn't a hit upon its release. "But that's the role now that people across the generations remember him for". The host of the show, Adriano Zumbo, has a tattoo of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka on his forearm. Turns out, that scene was as surprising for the actors as it was for audiences. He told Variety that he and Wilder didn't keep in touch after the shoot ended, but he is eternally grateful to both Wilder and Jack Albertson, who played Grandpa Joe, for their guidance. Once filming began, the two instantly bonded. "You never knew what to expect from Gene". As production went on, Ostrum remembered, "They would break for lunch and Gene and I would always buy a chocolate bar and share it on the way back to the set".


Though Wilder started his acting career on the stage, millions knew him from his work in the movies, especially the ones he made with Brooks, such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. As Ostrum put it, "To have made one film and to be associated with Jack and Gene, I feel like I really found the golden ticket".

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