Why Gene Wilder hated Tim Burton's Willy Wonka remake

By Nick Bond

Gene Wilder thought the remake of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was an "insult".
Gene Wilder thought the remake of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was an "insult".

It's arguably the role for which he was best known - and it's fair to say Gene Wilder was fiercely protective of his legacy as Willy Wonka.

The legendary comic star, who died earlier this week at the age of 83, didn't hold back in his later years when asked what he thought of Tim Burton's 2005 big-budget adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved book.

Speaking in 2013, Wilder was blunt when asked for his opinion of the movie remake.

"I think it's an insult - Warner Brothers' insult, I think," he said.

"Johnny Depp, I think, is a good actor, but I don't care for that director [Burton].

He's a talented man, but I don't care for him doing stuff like he did."

Depp's performance in the film proved divisive, with many viewers preferring Wilder's sly, impish take on Wonka to Depp's rather more cartoonish interpretation.

In a 2007 interview, Wilder admitted he couldn't bring himself to see the film.

"The thing that put me off ... I like Johnny Depp, I like him, as an actor I like him very much ... but when I saw little pieces in the promotion of what he was doing, I said I don't want to see the film, because I don't want to be disappointed in him," he said.

Even before the film's release, Wilder had dismissed the entire idea as a money-making exercise.

"It's just some people sitting around thinking, 'How can we make some more money?' Why else would you remake Willy Wonka? I don't see the point of going back and doing it all over again," he said before the film hit cinemas. While that may not have been the intention, it was certainly the result: Burton's remake grossed almost half a billion dollars worldwide.

"I like Johnny Depp and I appreciate that he has said on the record that my shoes would be hard to fill. But I don't know how it will all turn out. Right now, the only thing that does take some of the edge off this for me is that Willy Wonka's name isn't in the title."

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Funnily enough, Wilder himself was the subject of disapproval when the 1971 film was released. It was Dahl, author of the original 1964 book, who wasn't happy. He wanted Spike Milligan to play Wonka - and was upset the film pivoted from the book's central character, Charlie to focus more on the chocolate factory owner.

Of course, the rest is history - and Wilder's care and attention to detail when inhabiting the character of Willy Wonka is by now well-documented.

- news.com.au

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