Gene Wilder Saw Tim Burton's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory As More Of An 'Insult' Than An Homage

Roald Dahl's beloved novel "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" has been re-imagined countless times over the years. The first film adaptation, titled "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," was released in 1971 and starred Gene Wilder as the eponymous chocolatier. Decades later, director Tim Burton put his own spin on the children's tale with "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," starring Burton's long-time friend and collaborator Johnny Depp. The movie was a critical and financial hit, but not everyone was a fan. In fact, Wilder himself spoke out against the 2005 film.

Dahl's original story was a huge inspiration to Burton, but the director was let down by the '70s cinematic interpretation. "I didn't feel as daunted by the [first] movie," he told in 2005. Instead of using the 1971 film as a point of reference, Burton instead used Dahl's source material as a "blueprint" to guide his movie. "Our goal, except for the little bit of back story, was to try to be a bit more true to the spirit of the book."

One of the issues Burton had with the 1971 film was Wonka's warmth toward the children. "Willy Wonka is not a father figure, I'll tell you right now," he insisted. The filmmaker was adamant that Wonka "can't stand" children, which would explain his harsh punishments for their overindulgences.

This is not to say that Burton totally hated the 1971 movie. He even praised Wilder's lead performance. "I think he was great. None of us on the production were ever trying to top it," the director explained. He knew that fans of the '70s film might be resistant to his interpretation, but he never imagined that Wilder would be among them.

Wilder didn't care for Burton

Wilder was not a fan of Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and he wasn't afraid to speak out against it. "I think it's an insult," the actor told The 92nd Street Y in 2013. "And it's probably Warner Bros.' insult. I like Warner Bros. for other reasons, but to do that with Johnny Depp –- who I think is a good actor, and I like him –- but I don't care for that director. And he's a talented man, but I don't care for him for doing stuff like he did."

It is unclear exactly where Wilder places the blame for this "insult," although the bulk of it seems to fall on Burton's choice in casting Depp as the lead. The pair had previously collaborated on hit films like "Edward Scissorhands" and "Sleepy Hollow." For Burton and Warner Bros. alike, casting Depp was a total no-brainer. "It was the first time that I didn't have to talk anybody into [casting Depp]," Burton revealed to "Before I could even open my mouth, it's like the studio goes 'What about Johnny Depp?' And I go, 'Well, okay if you're going to force him on me.'"

Despite Wilder's resistance to the project, the remake was still a massive success. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was lauded as "director Tim Burton's best film for years" by The Guardian upon its release. The film's innovative set and costume design brought Dahl's eccentric visions to life with Burton's characteristically cartoonish spin, and Depp's lead performance was unforgettably unsettling.

Some original cast members enjoyed the remake

Not everyone in the "Willy Wonka" cast was opposed to Burton's "Chocolate Factory." Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt in the 1971 film, was a fan of Burton's re-interpretation. "I think it's extraordinary and it's great that there's room for all of us. It keeps the interest going," she told Collider in 2021. Still, Cole enjoys being part of the first-ever on-screen adaptation of Dahl's work. "What I like and that nobody can take away is that we were the first."

The 2005 film was far from the last time that "Chocolate Factory" would be re-imagined. The story has since been adapted into a Broadway musical and even an opera. It has also inspired an endless slew of pop culture references, as Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee in "Willy Wonka") pointed out to Collider. "There's always something happening, and that's a good thing. We all have very positive associations with the film, so we welcome more and more."

Fans of the franchise also have "Wonka" to look forward to in 2023. "Wonka" is described as an origin story for the mysterious candy connoisseur, with a star-studded cast that includes Timothée Chalamet as the titular lead. The film will also feature several original musical numbers. Themmen told Collider he is personally "hopeful" about the movie.

Adaptations and remakes are always going to risk upsetting fans of the original works, but it's unfortunate that Wilder — a cinematic legend in his own right — was so angered by Burton's "Chocolate Factory." The actor sadly passed away in 2016, so there's no telling how he might have reacted to the latest developments concerning the Wonkaverse. Would he have seen "Wonka" as an insult, too? It's a question that will simply have to remain unanswered.