Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory at Redford Theatre in Detroit Featuring Charlie Bucket and Mike Teavee, LIVE
Enter a world of pure imagination March 8-9, 2013 – and meet two of the movie's kid stars! Here, read Metro Parent's exclusive Q&A with Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie and appears at the event.
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Do you have children?
Yes, and that's a another good point: I was not interested in talking about the Willy Wonka experience until I had children of my own and saw that they were interested. It was kind of fun for them. But I do enjoy going to schools and traveling a little bit. My daughter is a junior in college and my son is a sophomore in high school.
What do your kids think of the film?
It's old news to them. They get a kick out of it. It's difficult to say how it's changed my life in their lives, because it's been part of my history since I was a little kid. They certainly don't advertise that their dad was Charlie (Bucket), and I don't advertise it, but I think they're proud.
Do people still recognize you as Charlie Bucket?
Oh, no. People think I look like Jack Albertson (who played Charlie's Grandpa Joe) now – maybe not quite that old.
So how did you get the role of Charlie Bucket?
I worked at the Cleveland Play House, as I said, at the Children's Theater, and the Children's Theater had a very well-known reputation. It was one of the theaters that the casting agency contacted. The casting agency was out of New York and they contacted the playhouse and just asked if they had anybody that they might recommend to be cast as Charlie, so my name was given to them.
One of their reps came out from New York and met me. We didn't have a script, so I just read from the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and we just had a tape recorder and tape recorded my readings and took a few Polaroid pictures, which they took back to New York for the producer and director to look at and listen to. Basically, they said, 'Don't call us; we'll call you if we're interested' – and they were. That whole process started in June and I went to New York in late July for a screen test, but they kept looking. Then, a couple weeks later, they decided that they wanted me.
While on-set, what was one of your best experiences while playing Charlie Bucket?
Probably working with Jack Albertson. He was wonderful, and Gene (Wilder) was, too. I was just very close to Jack, because we were always together in the film. It's a long, tedious process making a film. It's a lot of work. After the first week, the novelty wears off pretty quick, but I have positive experiences with the whole film.
At such a young age, how did you prepare on set to 'get into character'?
In many ways, it's different than theater. In theater you memorized all of your lines for the entire play. And, each night, you can get into your role. In filmmaking, you're taking short takes; you have to memorize a few lines for that particular take that you're doing and then you can forget it and go one. It's a little bit difficult because you're in and out, in and out. I would prepare the night before. Our director was probably not the easiest person to get along with, but our dialogue coach – who I was very close to – he was kind of my pseudo director – and Jack (Albertson) was, too. Jack and Gene would also give a lot of advice, as well.
Did you miss out on any particular childhood activities or events while making the film?
No. Even though it seemed like a long time, it was relatively short. And I came back to school and I had a tutor while I was filming, so I was pretty much up to speed on all my studies and classes. I got right back into playing soccer and riding horses and all those types of things that I did. And I basically just didn't want to do anymore acting for a period of time. That was the only role that I did, and it was successful, so that was kind of neat.
Out of all of the other kids on set, who was your favorite to work with?
As far as the other kids, I was the most impressed with Julie (Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt). But they were all good, and really played their roles very well. I was probably the most impressed with Julie, with her singing – I sang, but I cannot sing. I was very impressed with her ability.
What was your favorite scene to film?
Probably the dance sequence with Jack and the other grandparents, when Charlie comes in and he's announced that he's found the Golden Ticket.
What is your favorite type of candy or chocolate?
Dark chocolate. I'm still a fan of chocolate – hard candy not so much. I'm a fan of any type of chocolate, really.
Was the candy on set real, and were all of you able to eat it?
Everything that we ate, that you saw us eating, was real – except the wallpaper; the wallpaper tasted like wallpaper. And Gene's cup, the buttercup that he eats at the end of his musical sequence, was just wax. Everything else that we ate was real – except the gummy bears, the ears that we ate were edible, but everything else was not.
How do you think that this film will impact younger generations in the future?
There's a lot of neat values that the film promotes: working hard, being honest and listening to your parents. The fun of the film, and why it kind of endures, is that adults and kids can watch it, and everybody takes something a little different from the film. I think Mel Stewart, our director, said it best, in that he wasn't setting out to do a kids' film; he was setting out to do a film that had kids in it. It wasn't necessarily a children's film, and I think it comes across that way, too.
What did you learn – from not only being in the film but from watching it, as well?
It was amazing to me doing all that work and how it could be condensed into 90 minutes, a half an hour. So many things weren't included, different shots and things. The finished product was so different than what it was like when we were filming.
What's your advice for young actors?
Audition! That's probably Charlie's mantra: If it's really in your heart, then try. Everybody, if they work hard, has as good a chance as anybody else; that's what I tell the kids at schools. I ended up doing something completely different, but something that I really love to do. You have to find what your passion is. And, if acting is your interest, than by all means go for it. But it's not an easy way to make a living, that's for sure. You know, the Ronny Howards and the Jodie Fosters of the world are far and few between. There are few people that are successful as children and then carry that into an adult-acting career. There's few, but not many.
What are you most looking forward to during your trip to Detroit?
I'm very interested in seeing the theater. I like the idea of showing the film and then being involved with the audience asking questions and seeing people that are true fans of the film. I haven't been to Detroit in years, so I'm looking forward to it.