Who’s the biggest Charlie?


With the new show in London, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical opening at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London’s West End in 2013 Shows in London asks: who has portrayed Willy Wonka the best?

The theatre show will be the first time that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been on stage. Previews start at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane from the 18th May 2013 with the World Premiere scheduled for June 2013.

But there have been two hit films based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book. The first in 1971 starred Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and was entitled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The later, 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate factory starred Jonny Depp as Willy Wonka.

Gene WIlder

Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman on 11th June 1933. Wilder began his career on in the theatre, and made his screen debut in the TV-series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962. Although his first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder’s first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This was the first in a series of collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

The Producers became a cult comedy classic and spawned a theatre show of the same name before a film was made of the stage show!

Wilder was 38 when he starred as Willy Wonka. After his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971, Gene Wilder made four films with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991).

In 1971, when Wilder was first offered the lead role in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory he was initially hesitant, but finally accepted the role under one condition: “When I make my first entrance, 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.” When asked why, Wilder replied, “because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

Johnny Depp

Depp will be fifty while the Charlie musical shows in London. He was born 9th June 1963 and, when he played Willy Wonka, he was actually older than Gene Wilder was when he portrayed the character. Depp was 42.

Johnny dropped out of high school to become a rock musician. He played with a band called The Kids, who enjoyed limited local success.

Depp rose to prominence on the 1980s U.S. T.V. series 21 Jump Street, becoming a teen idol. Depp turned to films playing the boyfriend of the heroine in the 1984 classic horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street. He also appeared in a minor role in Platoon.

In 1990 he starred as the title character of the acclaimed Edward Scissorhands and later found box office success in films such as Sleepy Hollow (1999), Finding Neverland (2004), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Rango (2011) and the Pirates of the Caribbean film series (2003–present).

Depp was directed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by his long time collaborator, Tim Burton. The film was a major success at the box office and earned Johnny Depp a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his portrayl of Willy Wonka. However, Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka in the 1971 film, initially criticized this version.

Later in 2007 Johnny Depp finally won the Golden Globe Best Actor Award for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Douglas Hodge will play the role of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the show in London. Will he reign supreme and outdo his more illustrious predecessors?