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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Director Paul King on building Roald Dahl's world in Wonka, releasing in cinemas this Friday

With the film releasing in theatres this Friday, here is what director Paul King has to say about it

The Telegraph Published 06.12.23, 07:55 AM
Timothee Chalamet in Wonka

Timothee Chalamet in Wonka Courtesy: Warner Bros Pictures

In Wonka, Roald Dahl’s much-loved character Willy Wonka is brought to life by Timothee Chalamet. With the film releasing in theatres this Friday, here is what director Paul King has to say about it.

What was it that sparked your imagination about Willy Wonka?

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When I was a child, I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was one of the first books I read to myself, and I read it again and again until the pages fell out of the cover. I remember loving the wild comedy, all the crazy characters and the magic and mayhem of the chocolate factory.

When David (Heyman, producer) mentioned the idea of making a Wonka movie, I read it again and realised it also has an incredibly rich, almost Dickensian emotional core.

Charlie is such a kind, decent little boy and his family’s poverty causes them such suffering. The fact that he goes on to inherit the factory, a more wonderful gift than he could ever have dreamt, had me in floods of tears. The prospect of trying to make a film which captured Roald Dahl’s spirit was too exciting to turn down.

How do you introduce Willy in this film and what does the beginning of his journey look like?

Timothee (Chalamet) gives an absolutely extraordinary performance. Willy is strange and unnerving, funny and charming but with a glint of steel, and Timothee somehow keeps all these plates spinning at once. He needed to be able to sing and dance and deliver a very carefully choreographed performance, yet also dig deep into his emotions, and I was constantly amazed.

You have an embarrassment of riches of characters. Let’s start with the amazing Olivia Colman. Who does she play and what does she bring?

She plays Mrs Scrubbit who runs a wash house with her long-suffering partner-slash-underling Bleacher, played by Tom Davis. They’re very Dahl-esque villains and what’s great about Olivia is she’s not only very funny and a terrific actress, she can also be absolutely terrifying.

There’s Rowan Atkinson who has this lovely role....

Rowan is one of my longtime comedy heroes and it was an honour and delight to work with him. He plays a priest at the city cathedral (it’s not his first time in clerical attire) and he has to answer a phone with the words “Hello, pulpit!” It’s the sort of line only Rowan could deliver!

Why is Wonka the perfect film for the holiday season?

Wonka is the perfect Christmas movie. It’s like a great chocolate. It’s got a fun, colourful exterior and a warm, sweet centre which will leave you with a delicious aftertaste. And while it would be great fun to scoff the whole box down on your own, you are better off sharing it with your family and friends.

Of all of the chocolate creations that you have come up with, what would be the one you would eat incessantly?

The Hoverchocs are delicious. Sadly, they don’t literally make you fly, but we had our very own chocolate maker on the team, Gabriella Cugno, who made the most exquisite creations. And I can personally vouch for the fact that they are the most delicious chocolates I have ever had. You bite into them and there’s that perfect chocolatey snap, and as they melt in your mouth, you taste more and more delicate flavours. My favourite part of the whole process was tasting her chocolate (which I did far more often than was technically necessary). I think I gained about 50 pounds!

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