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Young stars of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' reunite for 50th anniversary

The cast members confirmed and denied behind-the-scenes stories that have circulated for years. #k5evening

SEATTLE — Beloved children’s movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory turns 50 today.

The film, starring Gene Wilder, wasn’t a box office hit when it opened on June 30, 1971. But it became a cult classic and entertained millions of people in the years since.

Four of the young stars – now in their 60’s – reunited to celebrate the milestone.

Peter Ostrum (“Charlie Bucket”) grew up to become a veterinarian. Paris Themmen (“Mike Teavee”) started several businesses and continued acting in small roles. Julie Dawn Cole (“Veruca Salt”) also continued acting, and became a psychotherapist. Michael Bollner (“Augustus Gloop”) became a CPA in his native Germany.

Entertainment reporter Kim Holcomb talked to the Willy Wonka alumni about their memories.

Credit: Warner Bros.
From right to left: Julie Dawn Cole ("Veruca Salt,") Michael Bollner ("Augustus Gloop,") Peter Ostrum ("Charlie Bucket,") Paris Themmen ("Mike Teavee,") and reporter Kim Holcomb.

HOLCOMB: "I'm curious, has a year gone by in your life since this film came out when you have not been reminded of it?"

OSTRUM: "Probably not. (laughs) Although as time goes on, there seems to be renewed interest. Especially at our ages, people are wondering what happened to Pete Ostrum, what happened to Paris Themmen? We were all 12, 13 years old. It's been part of our lives growing up, and our adulthood. Hopefully it'll surpass when we're long gone."

COLE: "I had my 13th birthday shooting the Golden Goose room, going down the shoot."

HOLCOMB: "I know that people have long been obsessed with Veruca and I have to say in my own mind, some of her lines that will just pop into my head out of nowhere, for no reason. What is the one that does that to you, or other people say, 'When you said this, it's always stuck with me’?”

COLE: "There are a couple of things that people always want me to say - they always want me to say, 'I want it now.' And, 'Snozzberry? Whoever heard of a Snozzberry?' Those are two favorites. It is extraordinary and we love the effect. I think it's so funny because we meet all you hard-bitten journalists - you've been doing this for a long time - and you're all like kids in front of us like, 'Oh my gosh, it's my favorite movie.' We've turned the tables. (laughter)"

HOLCOMB: "I would love if you could help confirm or deny some of the many stories that now exist on the internet about this film. True or false - the chocolate river was real, but it smelled terrible?"

BOLLNER: "Actually, the chocolate river was just stinky water, being there for weeks, being very cold, and I had to jump in about 20 or 30 times. It was really hard."

HOLCOMB: "Paris, was the tunnel scene actually terrifying for you as kids?"

THEMMEN: "They started out flashing sort of epileptic lights in our eyes and showing us footage of questionable animal treatment. And then Gene did his poem in the way that he did it, really trying to elicit terror. Were we actually terrified? No. But as actors, he made it easy for us to appear as if we were terrified."

HOLCOMB: "The wallpaper did not actually taste like snozzberries, true or false?"

COLE: "No, it did not taste like snozzberries. It tasted of wallpaper. They did paint a little bit of jam on for the first take. I was a little nervous about licking the spot that somebody else had licked, so. I was really reluctant to do that. And they painted my tongue with a powder so it looked gross when I had my tongue stuck out."

HOLCOMB: "Peter I read that throughout the course of the movie, your voice changes tenor - it's higher and lower at times - because you hit puberty during filming. Is this true?"

OSTRUM: (laughing) "I think we were all going through puberty during the film. It probably elevated after Jack (Albertson) and I did the fizzy lifting drinks, and we were supported by piano wires with kind of a leather girdle on our crotch, so that probably did make my voice go higher."

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is now available in 4K, for the first time ever.

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