Some movies are so god-awful the first time around that no one makes a stink about remaking them (Ocean’s Eleven comes to mind). But Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have the opposite problem with their remake (sorry, ”reimagining”), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. After all, the Day-Glo 1971 original — what with its vermicious knids, confectionary dwarves, and bratty kids — remains a classic to a generation known for its nostalgic sweet tooth.
Not that Burton and Depp will let that stand in their way. ”Obviously it was important to go nowhere near the other film,” says Depp. ”The seedling of Gene Wilder rests at the bottom of your brain and you can never get rid of it. But I figured if I started to go into that arena, I had to tell myself, ‘Stay away!”’
Depp says he signed on to play Wonka without seeing a script. In fact, he didn’t even know if the film, like the original, would be a musical. ”Finally I did have to sit down with Tim and sort of ask, ‘Am I singing in this?”’ he recalls. To Depp’s relief — and, he says to the relief of moviegoers everywhere — Burton’s film steers clear of Anthony Newley territory. The changes don’t stop there, either: Burton’s film explores Wonka’s troubled childhood, features a fleet of even tinier Oompa-Loompas (all played by actor Deep Roy), and casts Depp’s 12-year-old, teary-eyed Finding Neverland costar Freddie Highmore as Charlie. And like Depp, the youngster had some concerns about the movie. ”I was worried that if I did this film I’d come off it hating chocolate,” he says.
Cheer up, Freddie. Not even starring in a risky remake can kill a boy’s appetite for that.