The dark side of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka: How Hollywood – including the latest film starring Timothee Chalamet – has glossed over the more sinister elements of the author’s 1964 novel

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The latest incarnation of Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl's famous fictional chocolatier, sees Timothee Chalamet in the role. The movie, released in the UK on the 8th December, is being slated as a festive feel-good origins tale - with one critic describing Chalamet as 'infinitely charming'

Hollywood’s latest depiction of Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl’s famously eccentric chocolate factory owner, is set to be the biggest box office smash of the festive season – and has already been dubbed an ‘instant holiday classic’ by critics. 

Released in UK cinemas on December 8th, the Warner Bros. Pictures musical fantasy film sees Timothee Chalamet as Wonka; the Hollywood actor leads an all-star cast that includes Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Olivia Colman – and Hugh Grant as an Oompa-Loompa.  

It will be the third time Dahl’s 1964 children’s classic has been adapted for the big screen, with Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp playing Wonka in 1971 and 2005 respectively. 

This time around, the focus is on Wonka’s backstory and how he became the world’s most famous chocolatier, rather than Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket-winning tour of his factory. 

The latest incarnation of Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl’s famous fictional chocolatier, sees Timothee Chalamet in the role. The movie, released in the UK on the 8th December, is being slated as a festive feel-good origins tale – with one critic describing Chalamet as ‘infinitely charming’

The film follows Wonka as he opens his first shop, when his factory is still a pipe dream and Paddington director Paul King is at the helm. 

From the two trailers released in advance, Chalamet’s curly haired Wonka delivers all the Hollywood gloss you might expect of a film released in the holiday season – one critic has described the French American actor’s Wonka as ‘infinitely charming’.

However, roll back the decades to when Dahl’s original 1964 novel was first published and the content that inspired the latest picture isn’t always quite so feel-good. 

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Dahl’s depiction of his famous Oompa-Loompas, played by an orange-skinned Grant in the new movie, in the first edition of the book described them as almost black-skinned pygmies ‘imported direct from Africa!’. 

Dahl, who died in 1990 at the age of 74, remains one of the world's best-selling children's authors - but the earliest version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had to be changed after it described the Oompa-Loompas as almost black-skinned pygmies 'imported direct from Africa!'

Dahl, who died in 1990 at the age of 74, remains one of the world’s best-selling children’s authors – but the earliest version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had to be changed after it described the Oompa-Loompas as almost black-skinned pygmies ‘imported direct from Africa!’

By the time the 1971 film, starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, the Oompa-Loompas were sporting green hair and orange skin

By the time the 1971 film, starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, the Oompa-Loompas were sporting green hair and orange skin

Ooompa-Loompas in the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film; the workers were all played by Deep Roy

Ooompa-Loompas in the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film; the workers were all played by Deep Roy

Johnny Depp as Wonka in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; many felt Depp's 'creepy' portrayal was arguably a more accurate representation of Dahl's protagonist

Johnny Depp as Wonka in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; many felt Depp’s ‘creepy’ portrayal was arguably a more accurate representation of Dahl’s protagonist 

The children’s writer, who died in 1990 aged 74 and remains one of the world’s best-selling children’s authors, explains to the gaggle of children visiting his factory that his thousands of workers are ‘a tribe of tiny miniature pygmies’. 

The gathered children ask Wonka: ‘What are they? Where do they come from? Who are they? Aren’t they fantastic! No higher than my knee! Their skin is almost black!’

The text continues with Wonka revealing: ‘I discovered them myself. I brought them over from Africa myself – the whole tribe of them, three thousand in all. I found them in the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had ever been before.’ 

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Sweet like Chalamet: In Tokyo on November 20th, the film's lead Timothee Chalamet, dressed in a lavender-hued PVC jumpsuit, is surrounded by adoring fans

Sweet like Chalamet: In Tokyo on November 20th, the film’s lead Timothee Chalamet, dressed in a lavender-hued PVC jumpsuit, is surrounded by adoring fans

Fast forward nearly 60 years, and Chapter 16 of the latest edition of the book is significantly changed, with Wonka telling the children that the Oompa-Loompas were in fact ‘Imported direct from Loompaland.’ 

The lines about how his workers are paid – with cacao beans – remain unchanged in the modern version. 

At the Roald Dahl museum and Story Centre, in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, a sign went up in the summer at its entrance declaring that the racism of the writer was ‘undeniable and indelible’. 

The author of The BFG and Fantastic Mr. Fox was a ‘contradictory person’, the sign read. 

‘He could be kind…however, there are also recorded impacts of him being very unkind and worse, including writing and saying antisemitic things about Jewish people.’ 

The charity said it ‘deeply apologised’ for the impact of his antisemitism. 

This summer, the tourist attraction in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where the author used to live put up a sign apologising for his racism

This summer, the tourist attraction in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where the author used to live put up a sign apologising for his racism

The author of The BFG and Fantastic Mr. Fox was a ¿contradictory person¿ the charity said this summer, apologising for the impact of his antisemitism

The author of The BFG and Fantastic Mr. Fox was a ‘contradictory person’ the charity said this summer, apologising for the impact of his antisemitism

The museum worked on its apology with Jewish organisations, including the Board of Deputies, the Antisemitism Policy Trust, and the Communities Securities Trust.

Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, said the museum engaged with it ‘in good faith’, adding that ‘the desire of staff to educate themselves on antisemitism’ was clear.

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Plans to celebrate Dahl’s work with a commemorative coin were dropped in 2018 because of concerns at the Royal Mint over his antisemitism. It said he was ‘not regarded as an author of the highest reputation’.

And earlier this year, it was revealed that Dahl’s publisher Puffin had hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of his work to make sure his books ‘can continue to be enjoyed by all today’, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.

Considerable edits were made to descriptions of the characters’ physical appearance and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory didn’t escape the changes – Augustus Gloop can now only be described as ‘enormous’.

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