Original Charlie Revisits 'The Chocolate Factory' Peter Ostrum played Charlie in the 1971 film based on Roald Dahl's Chocolate Factory. Now he takes his family to see a new film version of the beloved children's book.
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Original Charlie Revisits 'The Chocolate Factory'

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Original Charlie Revisits 'The Chocolate Factory'

Original Charlie Revisits 'The Chocolate Factory'

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This past Friday, one of the summer's most anxiously awaited films, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" opened in theaters across the country. Roald Dahl's beloved children's novel of the same name was first brought to the silver screen by director Mel Stuart in 1971. Stuart called his version "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" after the novel's quirky, enigmatic candymaker immortalized in plum-colored velvet by Gene Wilder.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

Mr. GENE WILDER: (As Willy Wonka) (Singing) Come with me, and you'll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you'll see into your imagination.

HANSEN: Charlie was played by Peter Ostrum, a 12-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio. NPR's Jesse Baker went along with Peter Ostrum and his family to see the new film.

Unidentified Man: For tomorrow, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," (unintelligible).

JESSE BAKER reporting:

If you went to the movies this weekend, there was no question what the lines were for.

Unidentified Teen #1: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Unidentified Teen #2: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Unidentified Girl: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

BAKER: But if you're Peter Ostrum and his family, you can skip the lines. In fact, the last row of the 3:20 matinee of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" has been reserved for you.

So what does the original Charlie think of the remake?

Mr. PETER OSTRUM: Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca in the original film, had a wonderful analogy that I'll use in that it's sort of like going back to a house that you once lived in and it's been redecorated.

BAKER: Redecorated or remade, both are words the new film's director, Tim Burton, wants nothing to do with. Burton, who declined to be interviewed, insists that his film is not a remake of the original sugar-coated time capsule, but it's hard not to draw comparisons. The backbone of the story is the same: Five very lucky children--Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teevee and, of course, Charlie Bucket--find golden tickets in Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight Wonka candy bars. Those golden tickets lead them into the Wonka Chocolate Factory and into the world of their social misfit of a host, Willy Wonka.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

Mr. OSTRUM: Ours was a musical, and that's probably the most striking difference. The songs were a focal point of our film, and in the new version, there are no songs. There's a musical score basically built around the Oompa-Loompa songs.

BAKER: In the new film, Willy Wonka's played by Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore is Charlie.

(Soundbite of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory")

FREDDIE HIGHMORE: (As Charlie Bucket) Look, the Oompa-Loompas.

Unidentified Actress: What are they doing?

Mr. JOHNNY DEPP: (As Willy Wonka) Oh, I believe they're going to treat us to a little song. It is quite a special occasion, of course. They haven't had a fresh audience in many a moon.

BAKER: The Oompa-Loompas were rescued by Willy Wonka from the jaws of snozzwangers and hornswogglers in the jungles of Loompaland. The Oompa-Loompas in Burton's film are all played by one man, Roy Deep. He's been digitally shrunk and multiplied to fill Wonka's entire factory with workers.

(Soundbite of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory")

Unidentified Group #1: (Singing) Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop, a great big, greedy nincompoop.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

Unidentified Group #2: (Singing) Oompa-Loompa, doompadee doo, I've got another puzzle for you. Oompa-Loompa, doompadah dee, if you are wise you'll listen to me.

Unidentified Actor #1: (Singing) What do you get from a glut of TV?

Unidentified Actor #2: (Singing) A pain in the neck and an IQ of three.

Unidentified Group #2: (Singing) Why don't you try simply reading a book?

Unidentified Actor #3: (Singing) Or could you just bear not to look?

Unidentified Group #2: (Singing) You'll get no, you'll get no, you'll get no, you'll get no commercials.

Mr. OSTRUM: When I auditioned for the film, I had to sing and they said, `Don't worry'--because I'm a horrible singer--they said, `Don't worry. We'll probably cut your voice out and we'll use somebody else's voice.' I was relieved. As it turns out, they ended up using my voice. They just kept whittling down my part.

BAKER: Peter Ostrum is small in stature. His blond hair has been cut short and a thick t mustache neatly frames his lips. His cheeks are rosy and his blue eyes look like they could still well up the way Charlie Bucket's did in a scene when he told his mother all hope was lost and he wasn't ever going to find a golden ticket.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

Ms. DIANA SOWLE: (As Mrs. Bucket) I wonder who the lucky ones will be?

OSTRUM: (As Charlie Bucket) Well, in case you're wondering if it'll be me, it won't be. Just in case you're wondering, you can count me out.

Ms. SOWLE: (As Mrs. Bucket) Charlie, there are a hundred billion people in this world and only five of them will find golden tickets. Even if you had a sack full of money, you probably wouldn't find one. And after this contest is over, you'll be no different than the billions of others who didn't find one.

OSTRUM: (As Charlie Bucket) But I am different. I want it more than any of them.

Ms. SOWLE: (As Mrs. Bucket) Charlie, you'll get your chance. One day, things will change.

OSTRUM: (As Charlie Bucket) When? When will they change?

Ms. SOWLE: (As Mrs. Bucket) Probably when you least expect it.

Mr. OSTRUM: Our director, Mel Stuart, really emphasized that that was an important scene, called it the Oscar-winning scene for our film. It wasn't, but it kind of felt like it. He wanted to have the importance stressed. And then the sequence that we had a lot of fun with, what was very difficult to do, was when we were in the Wonkamobile.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

DENISE NICKERSON: (As Violet Beauregarde) Ooh, it's in my eyes.

Ms. URSULA REIT: (As Mrs. Gloop) It's getting in my shoes.

Mr. OSTRUM: And all the foam comes spraying out and that took ages to do because for every shot you did, you had to clean all the foam up and start from scratch. And so it took a long time, and Gene, particularly, had a fun time with that scene.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

PARIS THEMMEN: (As Mike Teevee) I'm sending you the cleaning bill, Mr. Wonka.

Ms. REIT: (As Mrs. Gloop) I'm dry-cleaned.

OSTRUM: (As Charlie Bucket) Hey, Grandpa. What was that we just went through?

Mr. WILDER: (As Willy Wonka) Hsawaknow.

THEMMEN: (As Mike Teevee) Is that Japanese?

Mr. WILDER: (As Willy Wonka) No, that's Wonkawash spelled backwards.

BAKER: Peter Ostrum doesn't like to draw attention to himself. He says with all the hype around the new film, he stopped answering his phone and, please, no more interviews. His wife, Loretta, says it took him years to tell anyone in the small town where they live, in upstate New York, that he was even in the film. And when he told her about the movie, he only mentioned it when she was about to meet him mother.

Mrs. LORETTA OSTRUM: He says, `Oh, in case someone brings it up, I was once in this movie.' Said, you know, "Willy Wonka." And I just thought, `Oh,' because I'd never seen it. So I didn't think too much of it.

BAKER: Now he usually only answers questions about being Charlie for elementary school children.

Mr. OSTRUM: But they're most interested in the special effects and so we go through what happened to Veruca? How did Violet blow up like a blueberry? How did Charlie fly with Grandpa Joe? All those types of questions. But there's usually one question somebody will ask, a good question, you know: `Why didn't you go on with theater? Why didn't we see you in any other films?'

BAKER: Ostrum preferred to become a large animal veterinarian, not an actor, and that seems to be just fine with him.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

Mr. WILDER: (As Willy Wonka) But, Charlie, don't forget about the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.

OSTRUM: (As Charlie Bucket) What happened?

Mr. WILDER: (As Willy Wonka) He lived happily ever after.

BAKER: Peter Ostrum lives with his wife, Loretta, and his two children, Leif and Helenka, in upstate New York.

Jesse Baker, NPR News.

(Soundbite of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory")

Unidentified Group #3: (Singing) If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world, there's nothing to it. There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you'll be free, if you truly wish to be.

HANSEN: And if that wasn't sweet enough for you, there's more "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on our Web site, npr.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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