What Gene Wilder Thought About Johnny Depp’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Most of us are still reeling over the loss of Gene Wilder, who died at the age of 83 due to complications with Alzheimer's disease. Some even went to the movie theaters over Labor Day weekend to remember Wilder in his signature role, that of candy maker Willy Wonka in the delightfully deranged family comedy. And with that title on the brain, some have gone the extra step to dig up an old Wilder interview, where he commented on Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's interpretation of Roald Dahl's novel. It wasn't pretty.

Back in 2013, Gene Wilder was being interviewed by Robert Osborne on the 92nd Street Y stage (recovered via Esquire), when he was asked his opinion of Tim Burton's 2005 experiment. As it turns out, Wilder didn't care for it... at all. He candidly admits:

I think it's an insult. ... To do that with Johnny Depp, who I think is a good actor and I like him, but I don't care for that director. He's a talented man, but I don't care for him for doing stuff like he did.

Ouch. That stings. Even with Wilder trying to massage the punch by saying he likes Johnny Depp, or that Burton's "a talented man" can't fully remove the dismissal of the original Willy Wonka on the second attempted adaptation of the quirky character. And I count myself as someone who liked what Depp and Burton did with the Wonka character, and especially the supporting elements, which are vital to the telling of the creepy and dark story. For starters, Freddie Highmore was a perfectly charming Charlie Buckett, and David Kelly was a robust and sweet Grandpa Joe. The kids who won Wonka's contest were upgraded versions of the terrible pre-teens in Gene Wilder's version. And Deep Roy, I thought, was hysterical as every Oompa Loompa.

At the same time, if there's one person who was willing to deliver a total and complete verdict on whether or not a version of Willy Wonka worked or not, it's the late Gene Wilder. This whole conversation is worth your time. His Tim Burton comments occur near the 20-minute mark.

Do you agree? Was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory an insult? Or was it a new version for an update generation? Let us know your thoughts.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.