What happened to the cast of Willy Wonka after the smash 1971 hit

What became of the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory stars? After the death of Violet Beauregard actress Denise Nickerson, we reveal the VERY different paths taken by the cast – including a vet, a Harry Potter goblin and a game show contestant

  • Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory child star Denise Nickerson has died at 62
  • The actress, who later starred on TV, played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film
  • Femail looks at what happened to the other stars of the family favourite
  • Paths varied from becoming accountants and vets to appearing in Harry Potter 

From game show contestants to Harry Potter actors, these are the decidedly different paths taken by the stars of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory once the cameras stopped rolling. 

The 1971 film is back in the news today following the death of former child star Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregard, at the age of 62 yesterday. 

The family favourite, based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 book, tells the story of five schoolchildren tour the magical chocolate factory belonging to charming candy man Willy Wonka.

For some of the child stars, the film marked the start of a decades-long career in showbiz. Others turned their backs on the industry in favour of careers as accountants and vets.

At the helm of the motley crew of actors was Gene Wilder, who played the title role and brought the wacky, wonderful world of the chocolate factory to life. He was joined by fellow adult actors Roy Kinnear – father of stage and screen actor Rory – and Jack Albertson, who played the lovable Grandpa Joe.  

Family favourite: Back row, l-r: Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner), Mrs Gloop (Ursula Reit), Sam Beauregarde (Leonard Stone), Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), Henry Salt (Roy Kinnear). Front row, l-r: Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson), Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole), Mrs Teevee (Nora Denney), Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen), Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) and Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) on the set of 1971 film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

From left, Jeff Baker, Ronnee Sass, Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde), Rusty Goffe (Chief Oompa Loompa, front), director Mel Stuart, Julie Cole (Veruca Salt) and Tom Lucas at the Willy Wonka 40th anniversary celebrations in 2011



British TV star: Roy Kinnear, pictured left as Henry Salt in Willy Wonka and right in 1987, a year before his death. The actor was one of the biggest stars in the 1971 film

One of the film’s bigger stars, Kinnear was happy to take a supporting role to join the world of Willy Wonka as Henry Salt – the father of spoilt schoolgirl Veruca.  

Born in Wigan, Lancashire in 1934, Kinnear was the son of Scotland and Lions rugby player Roy Kinnear Sr and his wife Annie. 

Kinnear junior was educated at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh before enrolling at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art aged 17. 

National service interrupted his studies but he soon found his way back to the stage and cut his teeth on stage and radio before becoming a national star as a participant in TV show That Was The Week That Was. 

After narrowly missing out on a role in Zulu, Kinnear was cast in a string of films including Help! (1965), How I Won the War (1967), and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), opposite Christopher Lee. 

Roy Kinnear in TV programme Those Wonderful TV Times, which ran between 1976 and 1978

One of the actor’s most notable roles was as Planchet in The Three Musketeers trilogy. Pictured, in character in 1988’s Three Musketeers: The Last Return

His success continued after the 1971 release of Willy Wonka. In 1973 Kinnear appeared in The Three Musketeers as Planchet, a role he reprised for the 1974 and 1989 sequels.  

Kinnear also lent his talents to voice work, narrating children’s shows Towser and Bertha, voicing Pipkin in 1978 film Watership Down and providing the voice for Texas Pete’s henchman Bulk in 1980s animated series SuperTed.  

Kinnear’s last major role was in made-for-TV film A Man For All Seasons (1988), directed by and starring Charlton Heston, John Gielgud and Vanessa Redgrave.

While Kinnear died of a heart attack in September 1988, his legacy is continued by his son, actor Rory Stewart, who followed his father into showbiz, most recently starring in BBC series Years And Years. 

Runs in the family: Roy’s son is actor Rory Kinnear, pictured, who has won an Olivier award and most recently dazzled as Stephen in dark BBC drama Years And Years



Dixon played an Oompa Loompa in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, left, although he was not credited. Dixon, now 65, pictured right recently, is a father and a grandfather

After just one major film role – as Sleepy the dwarf in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1966) – Dixon found a place as an Oompa Loompa in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

While Durham-born Dixon, now 65, was not credited for his role in the film, it proved no obstacle to him securing parts in a string of star-studded films and TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s.  

The actor appeared in Flash Gordon, The Goodies and Labyrinth (1968), and as Strutter in Time Bandits (1981), the fantasy brainchild of Terry Gillingham.

Dixon appeared as Strutter in Time Bandits (1981). Pictured l-r: Kenny Baker, Tiny Ross, Mike Edmonds, John Cleese, David Rappaport, Malcolm Dixon and Jack Purvis, in the film

In a turn that undoubtedly gave him serious kudos, Dixon also appeared as an Ewok in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983).

He was also featured in music videos for artists including Duran Duran (Sports Cars) and Spandau Ballet (Fast Food). His last credited role was in 1997. 

Dixon, who is married to performer turned Government worker Anita Dixon, is a father of two and a grandfather. 



Finally on TV! Paris Themmen as Mike Teevee in the film, left, and on Jeopardy! last year, right. Mr Themmen’s wife has also appeared on the US game show

While his character Mike Teavee never realised his dream of becoming a TV star, actor Paris Themmen, now 60, appeared on the small screen as recently as last year – although it was in an unexpected way. 

Boston-born Themman sent Willy Wonka fans into a frenzy when he appeared as a contestant on Jeopardy! 

While host Alex Trebek introduced Themmen to the audience as an ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘avid backpacker’ and failed to mention his Hollywood past, viewers at home were quick to recognise the former child star and took to Twitter to share their excitement. 

Themmen, who acted before his role as telly-mad Mike, took an official break from acting as a teenager ‘to be a kid’ before returning to the entertainment industry in later life. 

Fan favourite: Mr Themmen, pictured at a recent Willy Wonka fan meet and greet

Under the radar: When Mr Themmen (centre) appeared on Jeopardy!, he chose not to discuss his Hollywood past. Instead he was introduced as an entrepreneur

He’s taken occasional television roles in adulthood and other careers have included flirtations with film production and commercial casting.

Per IMDb, Themmen’s last on-screen role came in the Star Trek: Voyager TV series in 2000, and he’s appeared in recent years as himself on Top Chef: Just Dessert sand Cake Wars.  

The multi-talented star, who now lives in Los Angeles, is also credited online as a real estate broker and commercial casting director.  



The magic wouldn’t have happened without Grandpa Joe. Jack Albertson, who played Charlie’s grandfather in the film, passed away at 74 in 1981. Pictured right in the year that he died

Jack Albertson who played Grandpa Joe, sadly passed away in November 1981 at the age of 74 from Cancer.

Before his untimely death he had a successful career in acting, including various stints on Broadway and before Wonka he won an Academy Award For Best Supporting Actor in 1968 for his portrayal of John Cleary in The Subject Of Roses. 

He previously won a Tony for the same role during its 1965 Broadway run.  

The American star enjoyed further awards success after Wonka, picking up a 1976 Emmy for his role as The Man in the TV series Chico and the Man (1974-1978). 

With it, he became only the eighth actor to win the ‘triple crown’ of acting: an Oscar, Emmy and a Tony.  

Albertson, who lived for many years in West Hollywood, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1978 but kept his diagnosis private and continued to act. 

The actor eventually lost his battle with the disease in November 1981, aged 74. He and his elder sister Mabel Albertson – who died 10 months later – were cremated and their ashes were scattered in the Pacific. 

Two of Albertson’s last roles were in the television movies, My Body, My Child (1982) and Grandpa, Will You Run with Me? (1983), both filmed in 1981, during his cancer battle, and released posthumously. 



International career: Leonard Stone as Sam Beauregarde, left, and at an event in 2003

When Golden Ticket winner Violet Beauregarde stomped into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, she was accompanied by her father Sam Beauregarde, played by Leonard Stone. 

The Oregon-born actor graduated from university before moving to London, where he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. A stage career performing on the West End and Broadway, and Stone spent eight years in Australia and New Zealand with the musical South Pacific.

He won a Tony Award in 1959 for Best Supporting Actor in Redhead, a Bob Fosse musical. He also was in the Tony Award-nominated cast of Look Homeward, Angel in 1957.

His career continued on screen in the 1960s and 1970s and he would eventually rack up roles in over 120 television shows and 35 films.

Highlights included M*A*S*H, Eight Is Enough, The Six Million Dollar Man, All in the Family, The Dukes of Hazzard, in which he had small roles.  

Stone’s final role came in 2006 at the age of 83, when he played a minor character in the TV movie Surrender Dorothy. He died in 2011 aged 87. 



Head of the Oompa Loompa’s Rusty Goffe, right in 2011 and left in the film, enjoyed a successful career after leaving the chocolate factory. He keeps fans updated on Twitter

Rusty Goffe starred as the head Oompa Loompa, and as such was one of the few to receive a credit on the film

The Kent-born actor, now 70, enjoyed a successful career after Willy Wonka and was last seen on screen in 2016.

He appeared in Flash Gordon (1980), Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) five of the seven Harry Potter films.

He also regularly updates his Twitter account, on which he describes himself as ‘Actor, Dwarf, Goblin, Basically short …..but good ;)’ 

Goffe as Goober with Marcus Brigstocke as ‘King Stupid’ in CBBC show Stupid in 2005

Goffe also played one of the chief goblins at Gringotts Bank, pictured, in Harry Potter

Only today Goffe shared a post paying tribute to late co-star Nickerson, writing: ‘It is with much sadness I read of the passing of Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregard). 

‘Another light has gone out in Hollywood but another star has appeared in the sky. So, look up, make a wish, count to three….”Come with me….and you’ll be, in a world of Pure Imagination”.’



Still wearing red! Julie Dawn Cole played the very spoilt Veruca Salt in the famous musical film. While her acting career flourished into adulthood, she has retrained to work in psychotherapy. Right, Julie in 2011

One of the most memorable characters in the film, spoilt Veruca Salt belligerently begged her father to get her goose that laid the golden eggs.

While the role remains perhaps Cole’s best known, the actress, now 61, went on to work steadily across film and television. 

In the 1970s she starred in TV shows including And Mother Makes Three (1971-1972), Angels (1975-1976), The Mill on the Floss (1979) and the original series of Poldark (1977). 

In later decades Cole carved out a place as a soap supporting actor, landing small roles in Emmerdale, Casualty and EastEnders. 

From left to right, Karen David, Lesley Dunlop, Fiona Fullerton, Julie Dawn Cole, Clare Clifford, Erin Geraghty in 1970s TV show Angels

Cole opposite Hugh Bonneville in ITV programme Married For Life, which aired in 1996

But the mother-of-two, from Guildford, has not relied solely on her entertainment career. 

After qualifying as a fitness instructor in 1998, she worked in the 2000s on various projects, including the 2005 ITV series Fat Families as fitness advisor to one of the title families.

She’s now a qualified Psychotherapist but regularly revisits her childhood role; in 2010, she starred in ‘Willy Wonka Revisited: The Veruca Salt Sessions’ at Edinburgh Fringe. 



From chocolate to cattle: Peter Ostrum is now a vet specialising in cows and horses but stole hearts as impoversished blonde-haired Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film

Good-natured Charlie Bucket, the blonde-haired boy who won the lucky golden ticket, is now a 61-year-old vet who lives Glenfield, New York.

Actor Peter Ostrum was offered a three-film deal following the movie but turned it down in order to study as a vet after developing an interest when his family bought a horse. 

Taking a hiatus from school between high school and college, Ostrum groomed horses and worked at the Delaware Equine Center in Pennsylvania.

The former child star contemplated a return to Hollywood, and even visited California for a week to “test the waters” there.

However he ultimately decided to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine instead,  eventually receiving a doctorate from prestigious university Cornell in 1984. 

After turning his back on showbiz Ostrum became reluctant to talk about his well known role, declining interviews and even keeping it secret from his wife early in their relationship. 

However he now embraces his glittering past and has established a tradition of speaking to local schoolchildren once a year about his experience filming the movie.

As of February 2018, Ostrum worked out of the Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lowville, New York, where he works mainly with horses and cows. He has two children, a son and a daughter, with wife Loretta.



Accompanying TV-mad son Mike to the chocolate factory was his elegant mother, Mrs Teevey (Nora Denney), left. Right, in a small part in hit TV show Bewitched

Accompanying TV-mad son Mike to the chocolate factory was his elegant mother, Mrs Teevey (Nora Denney). 

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Nora (real name Dolores) found her big break when she was hired by the local television station as a horror movie host. 

It proved the start of a successful television career, with roles in Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Bewitched, Hart to Hart, Get Smart, Room 222 and That Girl. 

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory remained one of her most notable film roles. 

Denney, who is credited as ‘Dodo Denney’ in Willy Wonka, died in November 2005, aged 78. 



Another uncredited Oompa Loompa, George Claydon had already appeared in film and TV before landing the role. Right, as Bruno Fontana in Beserk (1967)

Claydon was also the man behind World Cup Willie, the 1966 campaign mascot

Another of Wonka’s Oopma Loompa’s, George Claydon had already enjoyed some film and TV success before he entered the chocolate factory.

Most notably he appeared as a photographer in Magical Mystery Tour (1967), as Bruno Fontana in Beserk (1967) and as dwarf Ginarrbrik in the 1967 TV adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when he was cast in family film. 

He would later return to the world of Narnia as Nikabrik in the 1989 adaptation of Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  

The Bristol-born star, who died in 2001 aged 68, was also the man behind World Cup Willie, the lion mascot for the England team during their victorious 1966 campaign.

The actor also enjoyed success in the decade after Willy Wonka, with turns in horror hit I Don’t Want to Be Born (1975) and The Last Days of Pompeii (1984). 



Chubby cheeked Augustus Gloop was played by German schoolboy Michael Bollner, left. Now 60, Bollner has spent much of his life working in tax in Munich. Right, Bollner in 2015

As greedy, chubby, chocolate chomping Augustus Gloop, Michael Bollner had one of the film’s most memorable scenes when he fell into the chocolate river. 

While the moment left children licking their lips in envy, Bollner later revealed the reality was far less enticing. ‘It was dirty, stinking water,’ he later said. 

The child actor did a couple more films in Germany after Willy Wonka, but quit soon after because his father wanted him to finish school.

Now 60, Bollner still lives in Germany but traded in acting for tax; the chubby-cheeked child star is now an accountant in Munich. 

The jovial former actor took part in a reunion photo shoot with his Willy Wonka co-stars in Los Angeles in 2014. 



Casting agents brought in German actress Ursula Reit to play the role of Mrs Goop, the indulgent mother of rotund chocolate fiend Augustus. Pictured, in the film

Casting agents brought in German actress Ursula Reit to play the role of Mrs Goop, the indulgent mother of rotund chocolate fiend Augustus. 

While Reit had enjoyed success in German cinema, Willy Wonka was her first English titled film credit. 

The film marked the start of a busy decade for the actress, who went on to appear in a number of German films in the 1970s, most notably Der Teufelsschüler (1973) and Magdalena, vom Teufel besessen (1974).

Reit’s career dwindled through the 1980s. She died in November 1998 in Germany at the age of 84.  



Childhood hero: Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, left, and right at the US Open in 2014

By far the film’s biggest star, Gene Wilder charmed children and parents alike as the eccentric title character. 

Wilder, a Milwaukee native, was born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1935. When he was six, Wilder’s mother suffered a heart attack that left her a semi-invalid. He soon began improvising comedy skits to entertain her, the first indication of his future career.

He started taking acting classes at age 12 and continued performing and taking lessons through college. In 1961, Wilder became a member of Lee Strasberg’s prestigious Actor’s Studio in Manhattan.

That same year, he made both his off-Broadway and Broadway debuts. He won the Clarence Derwent Award, given to promising newcomers, for the Broadway work in Graham Greene’s comedy ‘The Complaisant Lover.’

Star turn: Wilder, left, and Peter Boyle in 1974 film Young Frankenstein, directed by Mel Brooks

Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little in 1974 hit film Blazing Saddles, directed by Mel Brooks

A key break came when he co-starred with Anne Bancroft in Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage, and met Mel Brooks, her future husband and the man who would become his close friend and longtime collaborator. 

By the time he played Willy Wonka, Wilder had already received an Oscar nomination for his work in Brooks’ The Producers.

His career peaked shortly after Wonka in the mid-1970s with the twin Brooks hits Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974). 

He was also  close friends with Richard Pryor and their contrasting personas – Wilder uptight, Pryor loose – were ideal for comedy. They co-starred in four films: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991).  

Wilder died in August 2016, at the age of 83. He was survived by his wife Karen Boyer. 

Celebrities from stage and screen paid tribute to the actor – including his former child co-stars from Willy Wonka.  

Willy Wonka star Denise Nickerson – who played Violet Beauregard – dies aged 62

Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregard in 1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, has passed away at age 62. Right, Denise in 2014

Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregard, has passed away at age 62.

Nickerson died at her hospital bed Wednesday at approximately 10:30pm Colorado time, her family told TMZ.

The actress was visited at her hospital room that same day by several loved ones, who said their final goodbyes and shared memories.    

In 2018 the Denver, Colorado resident had a pacemaker put in, but she had a difficult reaction to it and became ‘agitated.’

Nickerson was a child actress when she played Violet Beauregarde, the girl who blows up into a large blueberry shape after breaking factory rules, in the 1971 musical film with Gene Wilder.

Denise was a regular on TV shows such as Search for Tomorrow, The Brady Bunch, Dark Shadows and The Electric Company.

Her last role was Zero To Sixty in 1978.


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