Timothée Chalamet admitted to GamesRadar+ that he originally worried “Wonka” might be a “cynical money grab” given Hollywood studios’ recent trend of rebooting every bit of IP it possibly can. Chalamet was offered the chance to lead the film, which is a musical prequel that tells the story of how Willy Wonka became a world famous chocolatier.
“Like many people, when there are remakes, I feel very protective over the original character and versions you love,” Chalamet said. “Your eyebrows go up with skepticism about [whether] this is a legitimate, worthwhile story or a cynical money grab. But I was reading the first three pages of the script, and the song ‘Hat Full of Dreams’ was in there.”
More from Variety
“Hat Full of Dreams” is the film’s opening musical number. Chalamet said “the lyrics were so clever” on the page that he immediately stopped worrying about the film being a cash grab even without music to accompany the song.
“[It’s] about this young Willy, who was definitively not the crazy, cynical, kind of jaded, brain-fried version that we see in the two prior films but was very hopeful, young, ambitious, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer, maybe a little naive,” Chalamet said. “That’s very clever.”
“Wonka” director Paul King revealed earlier this year that Chalamet did not even have to audition for the role of Willy Wonka. He told Rolling Stone that he was already a Chalamet “stan” and thus knew the actor had the singing and dancing chops required to play the part.
“It was a straight offer because he’s great and he was the only person in my mind who could do it,” King said. “But because he’s Timothée Chalamet and his life is so absurd, his high school musical performances are on YouTube and have hundreds of thousands of views. So I knew from stanning for Timmy Chalamet that he could sing and dance really well.”
King continued, “I knew that was in his arsenal, but I didn’t know how good he was. When I spoke to him he was quite keen. He’d done tap dancing in high school and he was like, ‘I’d quite like to show people I can do that.’”
“I love musical theatre and I love song and dance,” Chalamet told GamesRadar+. “And I love old Fred Astaire movies and the original ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ with Gene Wilder. I didn’t think I’d get a chance to do it, not like this. But Paul King is one of these directors that you don’t say no to.”
Casting Chalamet has paid off the for the film, which has earned strong nods. Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman writes in his review that Chalamet makes “a winning Willy Wonka” in a film that’s a “fun, rousing, impeccably staged, jaw-droppingly old-fashioned musical prequel.”
“Wonka” opens in U.K. theaters on Dec. 8, followed by its U.S. release on Dec. 15 from Warner Bros.
Best of Variety