The renowned character Willy Wonka, which began in Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and flourished on film, is born again in Paul King’s “Wonka.” The musical explodes with color and shines a new light on the range of Timothée Chalamet.
In a roundtable interview with Timothée Chalamet, who plays Willy Wonka, and Keegan-Michael Key, who plays the Chief of Police, they discussed the legacy of Willy Wonka from Gene Wilder to Johnny Depp along with the blissful uniqueness of the new story. Rather than telling the same competition and tour through the factory, “Wonka” focuses on the beginning of Willy Wonka’s chocolate journey. From the trip to a new town, run-in with the Chocolate Cartel and the founding of a new family, the new storyline turns the world’s predictability into imaginative wonder.
The greatest surprise is the success with which Chalamet achieves Willy Wonka’s character. Known for his serious roles, Chalamet spoke about the freedom in trying out a lighter character. He said, “Those characters are not only not having fun but [are] not self aware and take themselves extremely seriously, so the tone of this and the tone of Paul King films are widely different, they’re much more childlike and playful. So, there was an element of freedom there because I felt like I could go in any direction but equally a demand to always have the energy.”
Paired with Chalamet was Key. When asked what is different about “Wonka” compared to his previous projects, Key replied, “Not only the final product but the filmmaking itself…it’s the brand of fun that was different. It was as if Paul King the director was whipping up cinematic chocolates of his own in his own factory. You could see the wonder on his face every day.” The whimsy of Willy Wonka continued past filming and further than just the storyline. Key expressed the difference in tone as, “There was delight on the set. That is something I was really fortunate to experience.”
Both discussed working with Paul King and how their visions for their characters merged together. Key explained how, “There was a sense of play. Sometimes when you have a director who has written the script, the director might take a lot of ownership, but Paul King was very collaborative and was really willing to hear what you had to say when it came to ideas.” Chalamet agreed that, “That sense of play was rewarding because in my previous projects that were really grounded, what was rewarding was finding truth in my serious projects. For here, it is finding joy and glee.”
The transition into musical marks a new era for Willy Wonka. Due to the story’s focus on childhood, imagination and exploring the impossible, this changeover is successful. A key component of past films is the color. The relationship between Willy Wonka and chocolate is made strong through his connection to the vibrancy of everything around him. “Wonka” changes the world with a portable chocolate-making kit filled with magically vibrant ingredients. That, paired with the witty dialogue, reflects the same themes as previous films while creating a new adventure for audiences to explore.
“Wonka” is a delightful dream that marries child-like wonder with extraordinary colors. While the change in story breaks from tradition, the new life of Willy Wonka allows for a deeper connection to both the world and characters.