That Willy Wonka Prequel You Didn't Ask for Is Still Happening

The one true Wonka: Gene Wilder in the 1971 film.
The one true Wonka: Gene Wilder in the 1971 film.
Screenshot: Paramount Pictures

Don’t worry, though—Johnny Depp is nowhere near this one.

Deadline reports that Wonka—a prequel to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that we first heard about all the way back in 2016—is still very much in play, so much so that Warner Bros. has even scheduled a release date of March 17, 2023. Which is kind of wild when you consider the current state of film releases.

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The story is described as “a prequel to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which focuses on the candy architect Willy Wonka’s younger days before having his confection empire,” and David Heyman (the Harry Potter series) who is still attached as a producer.

Also still attached is director Paul King, who the Hollywood Reporter notes was first “in talks” for the gig in 2018. King made the delightful Paddington and the surprisingly even more delightful Paddington 2, so that bodes well for the sort of whimsical tone that a Willy Wonka origin story will presumably require—even if we’re skeptical about the existence of this one to begin with.

Deadline notes that the project is still in the very early stages— “it won’t be shooting while the UK is in lockdown”—and there’s no casting yet, though Collider has heard rumors that big-name stars like Tom Holland and Timothée Chalamet are being eyed by the studio. Even if neither of those actors end up signing on, that does give us an idea of how old the character will be when we meet the latest version of him.

Is there anyone in particular you could see stepping into the classic role?

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io9 News Editor, here since 2016. Previously SF Bay Guardian newspaper (RIP), SFSU (MA, Cinema Studies), member of the SF Bay Area Film Critics Circle, big fan of horror, metal, and verrry small dogs.

DISCUSSION

mosben00
MosBen

Ok, here’s the thing. No well-written story NEEDS a sequel, prequel, or spinoff. The story should start by setting up the characters and conflicts, spend the course of the story raising the tension, and then pay it off with a satisfying ending. Even if there are plot threads that aren’t entirely resolved, if a story does that, nothing else is needed. We don’t need a movie about a Young Wonka. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that such a story couldn’t be good.

The problem is that the people in charge of making big budget movies today have fallen into some pretty boring habits that make is much more likely that the movie won’t be very interesting. So, despite there being basically no physical action in the original movie, a Wonka prequel will almost certainly have extended action sequences where he fights and slides around various set pieces. Despite the spooky elements of the original mostly coming from Wilder’s performance and some trippy lights, we’ll get actual monsters. Because we can’t handle the fact that Wonka mentions things that “don’t exist” in the “real world”, they’ll introduce some Narnia shit where he goes through a wardrobe to another world. Instead of being a pretty weird recluse obsessed with candy, Wonka will need to be an action hero who rescues the Oompa Loompas. Instead of the villain being cold capitalism, there will be a literal comic book style villain.

I like Marvel movies, I do. The problem is that everything is a Marvel movie now because studios want to make Marvel movie money. Nothing can be too weird or potentially put off some portion of the audience. Nothing can have a budget below $100 million.