Original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory stars now: From tragic death, soap roles and major career changes

It's been over half a century since the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory graced our screens. In that time, some of its stars have enjoyed the spotlight, while others have faced heartbreaking outcomes.

The 1971 film, based on Roald Dahl's beloved book, became a family favourite worldwide. It was later remade in 2005 by Tim Burton, but the story of young Charlie Bucket and his precious Golden Ticket has remained timeless.

Now, with Timothee Chalamet starring as the quirky inventor in the new prequel, Wonka, we're left wondering about the original cast.

So, where are the stars of the seventies film now?

Charlie Bucket – Peter Ostrum

Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket, was just 12 when he took on the role. The innocent Golden Ticket winner not only survived the factory but also inherited it after impressing Willy Wonka. As a newbie to the film industry, Peter received guidance from Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka, and they formed a close bond.

The young actor became a household name but turned down the offer of a three-film contract and did not act again. For years, Peter refused to talk about the movie and sometimes even lied and claimed his brother had starred in the film – even to his wife at first.

However, since 1990 he has spoken to students once a year about his experiences on set and shown fondness for the movie, as reported by The Mirror.

Peter later went down a completely different career path and became a vet.

Willy Wonka – Gene Wilder

Popular actor Gene Wilder brought Roald Dahl's beloved character to life and his portrayal of the mysterious, eccentric chocolate factory owner is widely considered to be the best and earned him a Golden Globe nomination. The actor only accepted the role on the condition he could make his first grand entrance using a cane before shocking the crowd with a somersault – and the scene is one of the best in the entire film.

Also known for his roles in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Stir Crazy, Gene was a comic genius. However, he sadly passed away in August 2016 at 83 years old after privately battling Alzheimer's for the last three years of his life.

His nephew shared that Wilder kept his illness a secret to protect the image of Willy Wonka for young fans.

Violet Beauregarde -Denise Nickerson

Denise Nickerson was only 13 when she played Violet Beauregarde, who famously turned into a giant blueberry after stealing experimental gum in the factory.

After her time on the show, she appeared in other TV programmes like The Brady Bunch, The Electric Company and Dark Shadows. But a car accident in the mid-70s left her with a broken leg and put her career on hold.

Denise decided to leave acting behind in 1978 when she was just 21. She spent most of her life away from the limelight, working as a receptionist and an accountant in a doctor's office. Tragically, Denise had a stroke in June 2018 and later passed away in 2019 at the age of 62.

Augustus Gloop – Michael Bollner

German child actor Michael Bollner played the role of Augustus Gloop, who famously fell into the chocolate river. The star admitted that he didn't speak much English during filming, which made it hard for him to chat with his fellow actors.

Gene Wilder's passing left a mark on Michael, who said: "I regret not speaking to him again in the years after the film when my English had improved."

Despite his passion for acting, Bollner's dad insisted he finish school but he now runs an accounting firm in Munich.

Veruca Salt – Julie Dawn Cole

Julie Dawn Cole, an English actress, played the spoilt Veruca Salt, who fell down a rubbish chute due to some squirrels.

Julie, who was 12 at the time, enjoyed playing the 'spoiled' character but after starring in the film she was often typecast as the 'bad girl' in shows such as And Mother Makes Three, Saturday Night Theatre and Within These Walls. Her breakout role was in BBC medical drama Angels and she was also in the origin run of Poldark, EastEnders and Emmerdale.

She then played Pam Feeny in two episodes of Holby City in 2013. Away from acting, Julie qualified as a fitness instructor.

Mike TeeVee – Paris Themmen

Paris Themmen, who played the TV-loving Mike TeeVee in the film, took a break from acting at 14 to enjoy "just being a kid".

However, he later appeared in Star Trek: Voyager and various American game shows, and even started a travel service for backpackers heading to Europe.

Themmen also ventured into real estate, film production, commercial casting and business representation at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Oompa-Loompa – Rusty Goffe

Rusty Goffe was one of the unforgettable Oompa-Loompas who worked in the factory for cocoa beans.

Goffe also played several aliens in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, including a Jawa. And younger fans might know him as purple gremlin butler Goober from CBBC show Stupid!

* This article was crafted with the help of an AI engine, which speeds up OK!'s editorial research and applies it to article templates created by journalists in our newsrooms. An OK! editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected]

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