A few weeks ago, retired actor Gene Wilder made a recent appearance in New York City where he made some rather interesting comments. When asked about the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) “remake”, Gene Wilder said exactly what he thought and didn’t hold back at all, “I think it’s insulting”. For those of you that don’t know, Gene Wilder was the star of the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” as Willy Wonka himself. Of course this isn’t the first time he has spoken out against the “remake”. An article by the Huff Post highlights some of his distasteful comments from the past against the 2005 version. But are his comments really justified?
The original 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was released to critical success and also to audience success. Gene Wilder had already had plenty of success as an actor, but this is arguably the film he will be most remembered for. What made this film a classic is not only the success it had with the general movie going audience but with the kids of that generation. They grew up with the film and passed it along to their children, for many it is a big staple of their childhood.
So when Tim Burton went ahead to make his version of the book, there was uproar amongst fans of the original movie, and evidently with Gene Wilder too. In 2005, the film was released with Johnny Depp in the starring role as Willy Wonka, which was a vast departure than what Gene Wilder did. Critics gave it very good reviews all around, but as the audiences, they were very unkind. Most of the hate stemmed from fans of the original, while others gave it a chance and liked it. It was very mixed, but the film (no matter how good reviewed) went on to make 474 million dollars worldwide box office and was a success.
For full disclosure on this topic, I was born far after the original film. I watched it as a kid and really liked it, but I’ve never had a burning passion for it or full of nostalgia and love. So when the 2005 version came out it didn’t really phase that much. I was a much bigger fan of the book than I was of the movie up to that point and enjoyed the 05 version, even if the original film might be a little bit better. I never had one I preferred over the other, they both have their strengths and weaknesses in my eyes, and each one brings something different to the table. Either way I enjoyed the book more than the movies.
This leads us to Gene Wilder’s comments about the 05 version of the film. In 2005 he went on to say, “It’s all about money…It’s just some people sitting around thinking: ‘How can we make some more money?’ Why else would you remake ‘Willy Wonka’? I don’t see the point of going back and doing it all over again.”
Well there a few things you can say about Gene Wilder’s comments. When he claims, “It’s all about money”, he is right. It is all about money, but even the 1971 version was all about money. Movie Studios are going to make films they think might make some money. Studios aren’t going to make an investment if they think they will lose money. In all respects, all movies are risks, every single one of them could lose the studio’s money. The studio, when making the 1971 version, thought it could make money for them as well. Let’s face it, the book was pretty popular. It’s a business like everything else; the studios give the money to the directors and actors to make the art while the studios sell it. It is no different for either version.
Another thing he says, “Why else would you remake ‘Willy Wonka’?”. This portion of this article (not the source article) isn’t really talking about Gene Wilder’s comments in particular, but there is something I feel that should be addressed. There seems to be confusion amongst today’s audiences over what is a remake and what is not. A remake is taking a film from the past and doing a different version of that movie. This isn’t what the 05 version was, it was a re-adaptation of the original novel. This went back to the original book and made a different adaptation of the story and didn’t remake the 71 movie. There was the same confusion with the newest “True Grit” (2010) film.
I’m a big believer in, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” No one opinion is right, and no one opinion is wrong. Gene Wilder is entitled to his own views, however I feel as though some of them are a little unfair. I’m a big Gene Wilder fan as well and not trying to “hate” on him or anything like that nor am I attacking the 71 film or 05 film. Of course my analysis of his comments could be wrong or he could be misquoted I’m merely speculating on what I got. I respect the man and his work, I enjoyed both movies, and I’m a fan of the book, hopefully we won’t have to feel like we have to choose sides between them.