Strange Stories From Behind The Scenes Of Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

A movie about a candy factory where anything is possible is definitely crazy, but some of the strange Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory behind-the-scenes stories make it even weirder. Although the 1971 movie - adapted from the Roald Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - was a commercial disappointment when it premiered, later television showings and its release on VHS turned it into a colorful cult classic beloved by children and adults, and fans are still talking about it today.

Some of the weirdest Willy Wonka stories come from the unique ideas of director Mel Stuart and the quirky creativity of Gene Wilder, who reportedly only took the part after being allowed to perform in the style of a Buster Keaton physical comedy gag. Even the all-singing, all-dancing squad of Oompa Loompas have a few crazy tales. 

There are freaky behind-the-scenes stories about The Wizard Of Oz, but these tidbits from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory are both strange and a little sweet. Break out the chocolate because you're going to want to curl up and watch the movie all over again.

Photo: flickr / CC0

  • The Director Purposely Withheld Information From The Actors

    Several times during filming, director Mel Stuart used the element of surprise to get realistic reactions from his actors.

    Most of the cast hadn't seen Wonka's Chocolate Room until they entered it during filming. They were also surprised by the darkness of the boat tunnel scene and frightened by the creepy, improvised ditty Gene Wilder sings. Wilder also shocked the cast by playing Wonka with more anger than he showed in rehearsals, and they didn't know he would do a somersault when Wonka first appears onscreen. 

  • Some Of The Oompa Loompas Were Pranksters

    The nine men and one woman who made up the cast of the Oompa Loompas were circus performers from England and Turkey. Themmen said some of them were heavy drinkers who could get rowdy, and they liked to prank other cast members. 

    "In those days, when you wanted to have your shoes shined, you'd leave them outside of your hotel room door," Themmen said. "One night, the Oompa Loompas grabbed all the shoes, tied the laces together, and left them in a pile to be found in the morning."

  • Gene Wilder Had Seriously Tough Competition For The Role Of Willy Wonka

    Roald Dahl really wanted the role of Willy Wonka to go to his personal friend and comedian Spike Milligan, and many believe that was part of the reason Dahl didn't like the film. 

    Fred Astaire and all the members of Monty Python were supposedly interested at one point, and Peter Sellers reportedly called Dahl to request the part. However, Mel Stuart went with Gene Wilder. He claimed he knew he had found his Wonka as soon as the actor entered the audition.

  • Oompa Loompas Are Orange Thanks To The NAACP

    In the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl based the Oompa Loompas on African Pygmies. Wonka finds them in a jungle and ships them back to England in crates. The NAACP was upset about this when the book was published.

    For the movie, designers made the Oompa Loompas' skin orange and their hair green in order to alleviate concerns about racism.

  • The Chocolate Room Wasn't As Delicious As It Looks

    Any candy lover would be delighted to be set free in a place like the Chocolate Room, where every item is created from something sweet. But Paris Themmen, who played Mike Teevee, said most of that set was actually inedible. The giant gummy bears were actually made of plastic with partially edible ears, many of the candy bars were made of wood, and the lickable wallpaper tasted more like paper than snozzberries.

    Gene Wilder also had to do numerous takes chewing a "candy" teacup that was actually made of wax, and he couldn't spit until the camera stopped rolling. 

  • Some Actors Got Cavities And Others Hated Chocolate

    Being around vast amounts of candy wasn't a sweet experience for every actor. 

    Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregarde, claimed her dentist found 13 cavities after filming, most likely caused by her chewing a large amount of gum. Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt, also found herself in a sour situation. Although she hated chocolate, she managed to look like she enjoyed it while eating chocolate goop out of a giant candy ball. Of all the kids in the movie, she was the only one to continue acting after Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.