Wonka's Paul King on the character's origins: "He had a life beyond Charlie"
The acclaimed film starring Timothée Chalamet is nominated for Outstanding British Film at this year's BAFTA Film Awards.
Wonka writer and director, Paul King, is reflecting on the film’s success following its nomination for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs later this month. So, how does it feel to have made a film that has earned more than half a billion dollars at the box office? "Well, it's certainly an eye watering sum of money," he says, adding - "it's a lot more than the Paddington films [which he also wrote and directed] combined, so it's definitely new territory for me and very exciting."
When King was first offered Wonka he was apprehensive but changed his mind after returning to the original books. When he started - with his writing partner Simon Farnaby - to imagine an origin story for Willy Wonka they were helped by having access to the Roald Dahl archive. "There’s pages and pages of him trying different paragraphs and rewriting each time in longhand and Willy Wonka was a character he came back to time and again," King reveals. "He was obviously aware that he had a life beyond Charlie."
Revisiting the books also shed new light for King on the Oompa Loompas which led to the genius casting of Hugh Grant as Lofty. "I think he’s one of the funniest people on the planet," King says of Grant. "As I started reading the Oompa Loompa’s songs which are very sardonic and cutting and judgmental, I began to hear Hugh's voice and then it wasn't a huge leap from there, to imagine him looking like an Oompa Loompa."
Grant of course, also starred in King’s Paddington as a master villain so duly agreed to bring King’s vision to life. Both films share are, in the best sense, family films. "We try to craft something that everyone can enjoy equally and in the same way," explains King. "I always think about Charlie Chaplin as a real touchstone because I found those films really funny when I saw them as a kid, and I still find them equally funny now. That’s what the great family films do, it is what we aspire to."
The box office success suggests it is an aspiration he has fulfilled but having made such a colossal amount of money surely, I suggest, he can’t also want to win a BAFTA, that’s just greedy. "I'm probably a deeply greedy person - I want everyone in the world to love the movie and take it to their hearts."
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Wonka is available on Digital Download now and 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD from 4th March.