*Aww…I had to share this one. Especially for all of us who adored the classic film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and have, of course, learned of the death of its central character, owned by Gene Wilder (June 11, 1933-August 29, 2016).
All kinds of folks, celebrities and otherwise, continue to express their condolences and share experiences about the actor. But one in particular stands out.
Remember Charlie Buckett…the kid that found the ‘golden ticket’ and got to fly away in Willy Wonka’s golden glass elevator…while that beautiful music played… and Willy told Charlie that he was going to give him the Chocolate Factory…and he could bring his family to live there and he would be trusted to care for the Oompa Loompas?
TMI? OK sorry. I got carried away back there.
But him. The actor who portrayed the glorified role was Peter Ostrum. And you can bet the moment that word of Wilder’s passing got out, media outlets looked him up to hear his feelings about the legendary actor’s sudden death.
Ostrum, who reportedly loved playing the role of Charlie, left the movie business after the film wrapped and has made a career as a veterinarian. He spoke to Variety following the actor’s passing and likened it to “losing a parent.”
“You know its going to happen. But its still a shock,” said Ostrum. “He was not in good health at the end and it was not unexpected by any means, but when it happens it hits you like, ‘Gene is gone and there will never be anyone like him again.”
I know exactly what he means.
Although Ostrum’s career took him in a different direction, and he never saw Wilder again after making the film, he has very fond memories of the actor, and his work and personality during the time they spent on the film.
“He was the pro and I was a rookie.”
“He was a gentle man, but he was also a gentleman,” he added. “He treated people with respect and dignity.”
“My gut feeling is that Willy Wonka wasn’t his favorite role. But that’s the role now that people across the generations remember him for.”
“He was so quirky,” Ostrum recalls. “You never knew what to expect from Gene. He never let on how he was going to read a line or convey an expression. That’s why the film works, because he made Wonka so unpredictable.”
In the scene from “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory below, Wilder meets the children and families who won a tour of his Chocolate Factory for the first time. The Wonka character walks assisted by a cane; and looks as if walking is a challenge. And just as he reaches the gate, he drops the cane, falls forward…into the most gracious somersault ever!
The cast had not been forewarned of this athletic move.
Such is the wonder of Gene Wilder!