12 Delicious Facts About Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

It’s a movie that’s nearly 50 years old, but Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is nowhere near showing its age. A cinematic classic for generations of children, the 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory told the fantastical tale of what happens when four spoiled kids (and one good, sweet little child) visit a delectable candy-making factory. The film also turned star Gene Wilder into a cultural icon, thanks to his inimitable portrayal of chocolatier extraordinaire Willy Wonka. Whether you’ve seen Wonka 200 times—or, to quote poor Charlie Bucket, “just two”—we’ve got some sweet facts about the movie that are sure to taste better than an Everlasting Gobstopper.

1. GENE WILDER INSISTED ON DOING WILLY WONKA’S NOW-SIGNATURE LIMP-INTO-A-FORWARD-ROLL—OR ELSE HE WOULDN’T TAKE THE PART.

Gene Wilder, who died in 2016, knew exactly how he wanted to play Willy Wonka from the get-go. As he recounted to Larry King on CNN in 2002, Wilder told Wonka director Mel Stuart he wanted to introduce the character as walking slowly with a cane, then conclude the ruse with an expert somersault. When Stuart asked why Wilder wanted to take this approach, the Young Frankenstein star responded, “Because no one will know from that point on, whether I’m lying or telling the truth,” thus adding the necessary element of mystery to the character. Wilder also told King he wouldn’t accept the role unless this demand was met. Needless to say, Stuart made the right decision.

2. THAT WONKA INTRODUCTION BECAME SO SYNONYMOUS WITH WILDER THAT KATE MCKINNON REENACTED IT AS A TRIBUTE TO THE ACTOR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

The 42nd season of Saturday Night Live didn’t premiere until about a month after Gene Wilder’s August 2016 death, but the news was still timely enough for cast member Kate McKinnon to pay a fitting tribute. During the episode’s cold open, McKinnon, playing a pneumonia-battling Hillary Clinton, limped slowly—cane in hand—onto the faux presidential debate stage. But before she could fall over from fatigue, McKinnon then executed a flawless somersault. Both Wonka and Wilder would’ve been proud.

3. DENISE NICKERSON’S FACE WAS STILL TURNING PURPLE EVEN AFTER SHOOTING ENDED.

It’s commonplace for actors to hear some of the most famous lines from their movie repeated back to them via devoted fans. But when it happened to 13-year-old Denise Nickerson, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory hadn’t even hit theaters yet. According to People Magazine, two days after Nickerson, who played gum-chewing brat Violet Beauregarde in the movie, had shot the famous scene in which Violet turns into a blueberry, her face started reverting back to that now-familiar shade of purple. As luck would have it, this embarrassing moment happened when Nickerson was back at school and trying to be a normal kid again. But since the makeup needed another 36 hours to disappear, she ended up hearing friends of hers (unwittingly) paraphrase one of Sam Beauregarde’s lines from the movie: “You’re turning blue!” At least it wasn’t, “Violet! You’re turning violet, Violet!”

4. PARIS THEMMEN LIT UP TWITTER AS A JEOPARDY! CONTESTANT.

Back in March 2018, a gentleman by the name of Paris Themmen competed on the long-running game show Jeopardy!, finishing in second place. Describing himself as an “avid backpacker,” Themmen seemed like another run-of-the-mill trivia expert passing through the Alex Trebek-hosted set. But it wasn’t long before fans took to Twitter in their realization that Themmen had neglected to reveal a tiny detail from his childhood: He portrayed pint-size binge-watcher Mike Teavee in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory when he was 11.

5. PETER OSTRUM BECAME A DAIRY CATTLE VETERINARIAN.

Peter Ostrum in 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' (1971)
Warner Home Video

He’ll forever be immortalized as the good-natured blond moppet who won a golden ticket—and an entire chocolate factory—but Hollywood was never in the cards for former child actor Peter Ostrum. Despite Charlie Bucket’s central role to the story, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was the only movie Ostrum ever made. Although he’ll appear occasionally for Wonka anniversary interviews (he also spoke extensively about Gene Wilder following the actor’s death), Ostrum chose a quiet life for himself, working as a dairy cattle veterinarian in upstate New York.

6. JULIE DAWN COLE AND DENISE NICKERSON WERE RIVALS FOR OSTRUM’S HEART.

That fierce elbowing between Veruca Salt and Violet Beauregarde during the “Pure Imagination” scene (see above clip) may not have been acting after all. Both Julie Dawn Cole—who played the petulant Veruca—and Denise Nickerson have since copped to a crush on co-star Peter Ostrum. “Peter was a hot patootie,” Nickerson told People in 2001. Cole admitted that she and “Denise were competing for [Ostrum’s] attention” in a 2011 interview.

7. WILLY WONKA DOESN’T SHOW UP UNTIL NEARLY 45 MINUTES INTO THE MOVIE.

It’s a rare breed of actor who can completely encapsulate one’s memory of a particular film, especially when it’s almost half over by the time his character appears. Viewers tend to forget that we first have to endure a good 43 minutes of Charlie Bucket character development (and Grandpa Joe’s whining) before Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka finally tumbles into our hearts. Wilder’s belated entrance also reminds audiences that good things really do come to those who wait.

8. THE FILM’S FIRST SONG, "THE CANDY MAN," GAVE SAMMY DAVIS, JR. HIS ONLY NUMBER ONE HIT.

But this famously upbeat tune wasn’t without its problems: Actor Aubrey Woods, who played the candy store owner, originally sang “The Candy Man” in the movie’s opening scene. Leslie Bricusse, who co-wrote the song with Anthony Newley, was horrified by this version, telling the New York Post in 2016, “The song was diabolically performed by an actor who couldn’t sing.” Enter Sammy Davis, Jr., whose manager was seeking a song that the Rat Packer could perform for children. Even though Davis wasn’t a fan of the treacly tune, he couldn’t argue with its success; his “Candy Man” cover garnered him his only number one hit back in 1972.

9. GENE WILDER HATED THE CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY REMAKE.

Wilder did not mince words when he spoke with Robert Osborne in 2013 about the Tim Burton-directed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was released in 2005. “I think it’s an insult,” Wilder told Osborne, “to do that with Johnny Depp [who played Willy Wonka in this version], who I think is a good actor, and I like him.” But Wilder’s real rancor was reserved for Burton: “I don’t care for that director, and he’s a talented man, but I don’t care for him doing stuff like he did.”

10. THERE IS A LARGE ANTI-GRANDPA JOE MOVEMENT ON THE INTERNET.

In 2004, ostensibly in response to the upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, a website called Say No to Grandpa Joe appeared. It proceeded to underline every single solitary reason why Charlie Bucket’s initially bedridden Grandpa Joe (played by Jack Albertson in the 1971 film) is the absolute worst. A quick refresher: Grandpa Joe spends 20 years refusing to get out of bed while the Bucket family nearly starves to death (and don’t get me started on how Charlie gives his hard-earned cash to Joe so the guy can buy friggin’ tobacco). Then, the second Charlie comes home with a golden ticket in his hand, Joe springs out of bed, does a dance of joy and declares that he’s the lucky winner, not his pitiful grandson. Cut to 2018, and not only is the Say No to Grandpa Joe site still around, but there’s now a nearly 20,000-person strong Facebook group called “The I Hate Grandpa Joe From Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Page.”

11. DIRECTOR MEL STUART’S DAUGHTER PERSUADED HIM TO MAKE WILLY WONKA.

Never ignore the bit players in a film, because they might just be the reason you’re watching it in the first place. Madeline Stuart, whose father, Mel Stuart, directed Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, was the mastermind behind getting the movie made. “[Charlie and the Chocolate Factory] was my favorite book at the time, and I told him this would make a great movie,” Madeline told the Los Angeles Times in 2012. Madeline’s “finder’s fee” came in the form of a small role in Wonka: She played “Madeline Durkin” in the schoolroom scene where Charlie’s obnoxious teacher was conducting the percentages lesson. “Madeline” answered that she opened “about a hundred” Wonka bars during the golden ticket contest.

12. THE MOVIE TITLE WAS CHANGED TO WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY BECAUSE OF A MARKETING STRATEGY.

You thought it was because of Wilder’s sardonic portrayal, didn’t you? Nope. The reason was far more prosaic: The film was financed by Quaker Oats, who, naturally, wanted to use Wonka to advertise their forthcoming line of chocolate bars. The simplest way to forge a tie-in was to change the movie’s title from that of the book (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) to one that included the name of the product. Since the chocolate bars were named for Willy Wonka—and not Charlie Bucket—the decision was easy.

K-Swiss Has Cooked Up an Entire Line of Breaking Bad Sneakers

Breaking Bad lives on in sneaker form.
Breaking Bad lives on in sneaker form.
K-Swiss

Breaking Bad has been off the air for nearly seven years, but there’s no sign that AMC’s breakthrough drama is showing any hints of slowing down. On the heels of their success with a limited-edition Breaking Bad sneaker in October 2019, K-Swiss has returned to the seedy underbelly of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with an entire line of shoes.

The company announced a joint venture with Sony Pictures Consumer Products for three new sneakers based on the popular drug-running series starring Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a chemistry teacher-turned-unlikely drug kingpin. All of the K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 varieties are based on the K-Swiss Classic 2000 low-top design and take inspiration from different elements of the show.

The Cooking shoe has a yellow color scheme that takes after the protective suits worn by Walter and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) during meth cooks. K-Swiss will make 1144 pairs available:

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Cooking sneaker is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Cooking sneaker.
K-Swiss

The Cleaning shoe (1162 pairs) is patterned after the jumpers worn by the two during the cleaning of their elaborate underground lab built by drug lord Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito):

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Cleaning sneaker is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Cleaning sneaker.
K-Swiss

The Recreational Vehicle design, with a stripe that looks like the exterior of White’s mobile meth laboratory, resembles the October 2019 shoe release. K-Swiss will make 1396 pairs available:

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Recreational Vehicle sneaker is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Recreational Vehicle sneaker.
K-Swiss

The Cooking and Cleaning shoes have “Heisenberg,” Walter’s alias, written on the sole:

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Cooking sneaker sole with 'Heisenberg' printed on it is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Cooking and Cleaning sneakers have 'Heisenberg' printed on the sole.
K-Swiss

All the sneakers come packaged in a Breaking Bad periodic table box. Men’s sizes retail for $80 to $90. No women’s sizes have been announced. You can find them in limited quantities online at KSwiss.com, FootLocker.com, Footaction.com, and ChampsSports.com beginning February 20.

8 Surprising Facts About Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman in 1981.
Andy Kaufman in 1981.
Joan Adlen, Getty Images

For fans of the late comedian Andy Kaufman (1949-1984), the debate over whether Kaufman was more interested in antagonizing audiences or making them laugh still rages. During a career that saw him appear on stage and on television (Taxi), the performer often blurred the lines between his real persona and the characters he inhabited.

For more on Kaufman, keep reading. Thank you very much.

1. Andy Kaufman got a letter from his doctor that kept him from being drafted.

Born in New York City on January 17, 1949, Kaufman was raised in Great Neck, Long Island and displayed an interest in performing from an early age, entertaining children at their birthday parties when Kaufman himself was only 8 years old. After graduating from high school in 1967, Kaufman though he might be drafted for military service but didn’t wind up serving. His doctor wrote a letter explaining that Kaufman seemed to have no basic grasp of reality, let alone the Vietnam conflict. Joining the Army, the doctor wrote, might cause Kaufman to completely lose his mind. The letter, which likely contained a good measure of hyperbole, earned him a permanent 4-F deferment from service. He went on to attend Grahm Junior College in Boston.

2. Andy Kaufman’s stand-up act was very, very bizarre.

Kaufman got his start in the early 1970s performing at comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles. Unlike most comics of the time, Kaufman didn’t write a conventionally-structured act. Instead, he would take on the role of performance artist, confusing audiences with stunts like reading from The Great Gatsby and threatening to start over if they complained. He would also drag a sleeping bag on stage and climb into it or do his laundry with a portable dryer. These appearances were sufficiently provocative that Kaufman sometimes hired off-duty police officers to break up fights in the crowd or intercept people trying to attack him.

3. Andy Kaufman once opened for Barry Manilow.

Before Kaufman got television exposure, it was easy for bookers to assume he was a polished and conventional performer. As a result, Kaufman got a number of gigs in the early 1970s opening for established musical acts like the Temptations and Barry Manilow. Appearing onstage in 1972 before the Temptations came out, Kaufman wept and then shot himself in the head with a cap gun. Similarly bizarre behavior was also displayed before a Manilow concert, with irate members of the audience having to be calmed down by Manilow himself.

4. Andy Kaufman was once voted off of Saturday Night Live.

Kaufman succeeded in drawing attention to himself on stage, which led to being invited to perform on Saturday Night Live beginning in 1975. During these appearances, Kaufman would take material from his act, including his lip-syncing of the theme to the Mighty Mouse animated series. Such stunts drew a mixed reception from viewers. From 1975 to 1982, Kaufman made a total of 14 appearances on the show. Then, producers decided to offer viewers the chance to “vote” Kaufman off by calling in to cast their ballot. On the November 20, 1982 broadcast, 195,544 callers asked that the show not permit him to come back on. They outnumbered the 169,186 viewers who called in support of him. While the bit was intended to be humorous, Kaufman honored the results and never appeared on Saturday Night Live again.

5. Andy Kaufman once took his entire audience out for milk and cookies.

Kaufman eventually took his show to Carnegie Hall in 1979, where he was greeted by 2800 people who had come to appreciate his eccentric approach to performing. At the show's conclusion, he invited the entire audience to board buses waiting outside the building. Kaufman took them to the New York School of Printing in Manhattan, where he served the nearly 3000 attendees milk and cookies. He later gave them a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

6. Andy Kaufman thought about franchising Tony Clifton.

One of Kaufman’s great ruses on the public was dressing as the abrasive lounge singer Tony Clifton, complete with prosthetic chin and torso padding, all while insisting Clifton was an entirely different person. Kaufman sometimes enlisted associates, including his brother Michael and his writing partner Bob Zmuda, to put on the make-up. In 2013, Michael told Vice that Kaufman’s plan was to have Clifton become a roving character. “Andy had been talking about franchising Tony Clifton before he died,” Michael Kaufman said. “He was going to have one in every state.”

7. Andy Kaufman insisted on an Andy Kaufman stand-in for Taxi.

When Kaufman agreed to appear on Taxi (1978-1983) as Latka Gravas, a version of the “Foreign Man” character he had been performing on stage, he had a peculiar request: He wanted to be expected on set for only two of the five shooting days for each episode. While Kaufman didn’t seem to want to do it at all, the paycheck allowed him to pursue his more experimental brand of comedy. Producers agreed. In 2018, co-star Carol Kane, who played Kaufman's love interest, told The Hollywood Reporter that the cast “would work with a fake Andy who wore a sign around his neck that said ‘Latka.’”

Kaufman also showed up to shoot an episode as his alter ego Tony Clifton, insisting that he was not Kaufman. Star Judd Hirsch got so angry that he had Clifton thrown off the set.

8. Andy Kaufman broke character for Orson Welles.

While there were certainly times Kaufman spoke from the heart, it was rare to see him break any one of his myriad characters in front of an audience. That happened—fleetingly—when Kaufman appeared on The Merv Griffin Show in 1982 on a night it was being guest-hosted by legendary film director Orson Welles. Sporting a neck brace from his stint in professional wrestling, Kaufman didn’t keep up appearances for long. After Welles told him he was “fascinated” by his characters, talk turned to Kaufman’s “Foreign Man,” his Elvis Presley imitation, and his “third character,” Tony Clifton. “Well, he wasn’t a character,” Kaufman said, correcting himself. “There’s a lot of debate over whether it’s a character or a real guy, and that’s Tony Clifton, but that’s a whole other story.”

“That’s metaphysics,” Welles replied.

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