Gene Wilder Only Accepted The Role Of 'Willy Wonka' If He Was Allowed To Do One Thing...

Publish Date
Thursday, 1 September 2016, 10:50AM

We were very sad to hear of Gene Wilder's passing. He was such a phenomenal comedic actor. 

Wilder left behind so many great memories, including the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, originally adapted from the Roald Dahl book. 

Interestingly enough, it turns out that Wilder only accepted the role of Wonka under one condition. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what scene Wilder is referring to, when he discussed the script change with director Mel Stuart. 

“When I make my first entrance,” he explained, “I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself; but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.” 

“From that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth,” Wilder noted. 


The actress who played Veruca Salt talked to the Mirror about Wilder's passing recently.

Cole said: “We knew he was getting older and becoming frail, but it’s still a shock. You expect Mr Wonka to go on forever. He was a lovely, lovely man — very warm, gentle and sincere.”

“He would have the kids bouncing around all over him and he never said to go away or anything. He was kind and friendly — we were like one big family.”

Cole remembers the very special gift that Wilder gave her for her 13th birthday on set:

“I had my 13th birthday during filming and he arranged for a photographer to come and take colour stills of me, which were very rare back then.”

And perhaps most moving of all, Cole says she saw Wilder for the last time 10 years ago at one of his London stage shows. After the performance, the two caught up with one another, when Mr. Wonka himself told her:

“I guess Veruca was not such a bad egg after all.”