After reading the script, Gene Wilder said he would make the film under one condition: that he would be allowed to somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When asked why, Gene Wilder replied that having Willy Wonka start out limping and end up somersaulting would set the tone for that character. He wanted to portray him as someone whose actions were completely unpredictable. His request to somersault was granted.
Ernst Ziegler, who played Grandpa George, was nearly blind (from poison gas in the First World War), and so was instructed to look for a red light to guide him when his character was meant to be looking in a certain direction.
Gene Wilder's acting during the boat ride sequence was so convincing that it frightened some of the other actors, including Denise Nickerson (Violet). They thought that Wilder really was going mad from being in the tunnel.
The reactions of the actors in some scenes are spontaneous. For example, when the children first enter the Chocolate Room and see the candy gardens, their reactions are real, it was really their first view of that particular set.
This movie was shot in Munich, Germany, but the producers had to go outside of Germany to recruit enough little people to play the Oompa Loompas (one of the many tragic legacies of the Nazi era). Many of the people cast as Oompa Loompas (German or otherwise) did not speak English fluently, if at all. This is why some appear to not know the words to songs during the musical numbers.
In the "Candy Man" scene in the candy store, shortly after Bill dispenses the sodas from the soda fountain, he flips open a pass-through on the counter and it hits a little girl under the chin, knocking her head back.
The Wonkatania was on a track in the chocolate river, but the actor playing the Oompa Loompa at the helm thought he was actually steering it. For the sake of believability, director Mel Stuart didn't tell him the truth.
When Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) drinks from a flower-shaped cup and then eats the cup, the cup itself was made of wax. Gene Wilder had to chew the wax pieces until the end of the take, at which point he spat them out.
Even Julie Dawn Cole was fooled by the scene in which Willy limps out of his factory to greet the Golden Ticket winners. She mentions in the DVD commentary that she thought that Gene Wilder had injured his leg for real (and that the filming would have to be temporarily halted because of it). This resulted in her being just as stunned by Willy's somersault as the audience is.
Sammy Davis Jr. expressed an interest in playing Bill, the candy store owner, but the film-makers deemed it as too kitschy and declined. Nevertheless, the candy store song, "The Candyman", became a staple of Davis' stage show for many years.
Whenever a scene was filmed inside the Buckets' house, Ernst Ziegler (Grandpa George) would take off his shoes and tuck them under the set bed before crawling in to film the scenes. When it came time to film the portion of the "I've Got a Golden Ticket" song that involved Grandpa Joe and Charlie both looking under the bed, the director (Mel Stuart) wanted to move Ziegler's shoes out of the way to film the scene, but Ziegler protested vehemently, as he was afraid they would take his shoes away, and he valued those shoes very much so, as they were his only remaining possession from before World War II. Eventually, the director was able to convince Ziegler to allow them to move his shoes to film the scene.
Denise Nickerson had a Violet-esque experience in real life. She said in the DVD commentary that one day in math class kids started pointing at her and laughing, and one of her friends told her she was turning purple. The makeup that had been used on her for the film had apparently seeped into her pores and started to resurface (which, she jokingly remarks, prevented her from getting any dates at that school).
Among Wonka's lines are the following quotations: "Is it my soul that calls upon my name?" from William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"; "All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by" from the John Masefield poem "Sea Fever"; "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" from John Keats's "Endymion: A Poetic Romance" and "Round the world and home again, that's the sailor's way!" from William Allingham's "Homeward Bound". "We are the music-makers..." is from Arthur O'Shaughnessy's "Ode", which also gave us the phrase "movers and shakers". "Where is fancy bred..." and "So shines a good deed..." are from William Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice". The lines to the song "Sweet lovers love the spring time... " are from Shakespeare's "As You Like It". "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" is from "Reflections on Ice Breaking" by Ogden Nash. "The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last" is a quote from Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest". These literary quotations were not in Roald Dahl's original script. They were added for one reason or another by David Seltzer when he re-wrote the screenplay.
Veruca Salt's name, also spelled 'verruca' or 'verucca', is a medical term for a wart, usually found on the foot, and caused by a virus. Seems appropriate, considering the character's personality. In the book, when learning the children's names, Willy Wonka mentions that verruca is a wart on the bottom of a foot.
According to director Mel Stuart's "Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka", when Gene Wilder walked in to audition, Stuart knew before he'd even uttered a single word that he had found his Willy Wonka. The audition convinced him even further, so when Wilder finished and left the room, Stuart chased him down the hallway, cut him off at the elevator bank, grabbed his arm and told him "You're doing this picture, no two ways about it! You are Willy Wonka!" Producer David L. Wolper, however, was furious because he hadn't yet had the chance to negotiate a fee.
Julie Dawn Cole did not know the rock in the chocolate room she was dropping down onto to smash the watermelon-sized chocolate egg was real and she badly cut her left knee falling onto it. If you watch carefully in her first scene with the egg you can see her left stocking is bloody. She still has a scar on her knee from the injury.
Both Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregard) and Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) had a crush on Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket). During filming, the girls would alternate days over which one would spend time with Ostrum. Bob Roe was also an object of attraction for the two. On the day they didn't get to spend with Peter, they would spend it with Bob Roe. Bob Roe was the son of first assistant director Jack Roe.
During the "Wonka Wash" car scene (01:24:27), the foam used to spurt out was compiled from basic fire extinguishers, but what was unknown to the cast and crew was that the foam itself was potent skin irritant, so after shooting the scene, the actors were left in considerable discomfort when their skin puffed up and required several days to receive medical treatment and recovery.
Augustus Gloop (#1 on the map at 26:07) is from Dusselheim, Germany, Violet Beauregarde (#3) is from Miles City, Montana, and Mike Teevee (#4) is from Marble Falls, Arizona. Of these cities, the only one that isn't fictional is Miles City, Montana. Charlie Bucket's and Veruca Salt's hometowns are never mentioned throughout the movie, but it is likely Veruca and her family reside in the UK, especially since #2 on the map is over the British Isles. (Mr. Salt tells the workers he will give the one who finds a Golden Ticket a one-pound bonus and there is a sign inside the factory reading "SALT'S: THE PEANUTS OF THE QUEEN!")
A number of the objects and plants in the Chocolate Room really were edible, including the giant lollipops. In the featurette Pure Imagination: The Story of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' (2001), Gene Wilder mentions that "about a third" of the stuff in the Chocolate Room was edible. However, the cup that Wilder took a bite out of at the end of the "Pure Imagination" song, was not actually edible.
The film was originally financed by the Quaker Oats Company. They hoped to tie it to a new candy bar they intended to bring on the market. When the film was released, the company began marketing its "Wonka" chocolate bars. Unfortunately, an error in the chocolate formula caused the bars to melt too easily, even while on the shelf, and so they were taken off the market. Quaker sold the brand to St. Louis-based Sunline, Inc. (which later became part of Nestlé via Rowntree) not long after this; Sunline was able to make the brand a success, and Wonka-branded candy (most of which isn't chocolate-based) is still available in the USA. Although the book this movie was based on was called 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', the movie was renamed to promote this candy tie-in.
Peter Ostrum went through puberty during the film. His voice is high during the duet of "I've Got a Golden Ticket" (39:00 to 41:50), and is much deeper later in the film, such as during the bubble scene (01:15:00 to 01:19:00: Fizzy-Lifting Drinks).
It is said Roald Dahl was reportedly so angry with the treatment of his book (mainly stemming from the massive rewrite by David Seltzer) that he refused permission for the book's sequel, "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator", to be filmed. Seltzer had an idea for a new sequel, but legal issues meant that it never got off the ground. Reportedly, Dahl was so unhappy that he refused to ever watch the completed film in its entirety. Once, while staying in a hotel, he accidentally tuned into a television airing of the movie, but reportedly changed the channel immediately when he realized what he was watching. However, photographic evidence contradicts this: behind-the-scenes footage on the DVD shows him looking happy while visiting the set, and he even attended the premiere. Julie Dawn Cole, commenting in 2011 on these events, remembers him as being a large, scary man.
During the "Pure Imagination" song, Willy Wonka whips his cane around here and there to stop the crowd in place during various points of the song. According to Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) in the DVD commentary (at around 53 mins), during one of the takes as Gene Wilder whipped his cane around, he accidentally whacked Themmen. In her memoir "I Want it Now!", Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) mentions that she was also accidentally whacked by the cane a couple of times.
Peter Ostrum said in the DVD commentary that he and Jack Albertson were very excited to do the Fizzy Lifting Drink scene, thinking it would be a lot of fun, but that it wasn't due to the metal surrounding them being rather sharp and the harnesses being extremely tight in the crotch area. Albertson joked that music from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite should be played in the background of that scene.
The scene where Augustus Gloop was interviewed for being the first Golden Ticket finder was shot at a real German restaurant. Most of the cast members went there for lunch during the time the movie was being filmed.
The bees that were used in the gum machine were actually wasps (at around 1h 11 mins). Paris Themmen, a notorious troublemaker on the set, apparently released them from their bell jar and was stung on the face as a result.
Before entering the Inventing Room, Willy Wonka gives an introductory speech in German, with an accent, but otherwise phonetically and grammatically correct. It goes "Meine Herrschaften, schenken Sie mir Ihre Aufmerksamkeit. Sie kommen jetzt in den interessantesten und gleichzeitig geheimsten Raum meiner Fabrik. Meine Damen und Herren: der 'Inventing Room'". He even pronounces the German R correctly, and says 'Inventing Room' with a proper German accent. The speech translates: "Ladies and gentlemen, please give me your attention. You now come into the most interesting room of my factory, the most secret room at the same time. Ladies and gentlemen: the 'Inventing Room'."
The face in the psychedelic tunnel movie is that of Walon Green, friend of director Mel Stuart and screenwriter of The Wild Bunch (1969). According to Stuart's memoirs, Green is the only person who would agree to let a centipede crawl on his face for the sake of a children's film.
Even though the film didn't do well at the box office, surprisingly, when it was released to home video, it gained more attention. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) was one of the more popular movies for rentals by the time the rental fad took off in the 80s.
Both Denise Nickerson and Paris Themmen (in the DVD commentary) cited lines they say in the film that have British inflection due to time spent around Julie Dawn Cole. (Nickerson's is when she repeats "Everlasting Gobstopper" after Willy Wonka first shows them to the children, and Themmen's is when he asks, "Am I coming in clear" after being sent through television).
Denise Nickerson's blueberry scene was shot in the middle of the day, leaving a time frame in between takes for lunch. She had to stay in her blueberry costume for that duration and had to be turned over several times to keep proper blood circulation.
The scene where the technician tries to impress the three businessmen with the large computer to (unsuccessfully) give the results of the (then 3) remaining Golden Tickets was the last scene filmed for the movie. It was filmed at such a last minute that there was a ton of luggage scattered around the set as the cast and crew were already in the process of packing up to wrap up the movie.
There's been some debate as to the correct spelling of Mike Teevee's last name. In the movie's closing credits as well as in all of the promotional media for the movie's US release, Mike's last name is spelled "Teevee". In the book, it is spelled "Teavee" and finally in the movie itself, during the scene where all the children sign the large contract, Mike is seen signing his name as "Mike T.V." (at around 49 mins). In the DVD commentary, Paris Themmen said that during the contract-signing scene, he was told by director Mel Stuart to sign his name as "Mike T.V." because it would allow the scene to be filmed quicker.
At 19:19 in the featurette Pure Imagination: The Story of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' (2001), writer David Seltzer and director Mel Stuart relate that David had left Munich for his vacation cabin in Maine thinking his contribution to the film was completed when Mel realized that the screenplay ended with Grandpa's line: "Yippie!" Mel phoned Maine from Munich and told David that he couldn't finish the picture without a good ending line. Dave responded with the only thing he could think of, that they are flying in the air, Willy Wonka looks at Charlie and says, in a very warning voice, the "happily ever after" lines.
Contrary to popular belief, Fred Astaire wasn't ever considered to play Willy Wonka. According to director Mel Stuart's book "Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka", Fred expressed interest in playing the eccentric chocolatier, but that wasn't brought to either Stuart or producer David L. Wolper's attention. Just as well, because, as Stuart says in his book, he didn't conceive of Willy Wonka as a 72-year-old man, which happened to be what Astaire was at the time.
According to the Wonka "kids", the hair and make-up lady, who was German, used a German word to refer to Gene Wilder's often unruly hair, not realizing that the English translation of the word is "chicken".
Peter Ostrum mentions at 06:08 in the featurette Pure Imagination: The Story of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' (2001) that he was in the sixth grade when he read from the book for the part of Charlie in May 1970 because there wasn't a script. In late July, he went to New York for a screen test and several weeks later he was told he had the role, leaving his family ten days to relocate him to Munich for five months.
Actress Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) explains in her memoir "I Want it Now!" that the mixing bike in the Inventing Room was initially meant to be pedaled by an Oompa Loompa. When it came time to film the scene, however, it was discovered that none of the Oompa Loompa actors' legs were long enough to reach the pedals. So the filmmakers came up with a creative solution: Gene Wilder, as Willy Wonka, would do the pedaling instead... while singing "Sweet Lovers Love the Springtime".
The coin which Charlie finds in the gutter is a Maria Theresa Thaler. This is a silver dollar sized Austrian coin originally minted in 1780 and manufactured almost continuously since then by various mints.
During the construction of Willy's office, in which everything is cut in half, one of the prop men accidentally sawed in half a non-prop coffee pot that someone had put in the work area. Only when coffee began spilling out did he realize his mistake.
After the company finished filming in Munich, Germany, the studio and locations were then taken over by the Cabaret (1972) people. On the DVD alt-track, one of the kids remarks, "We moved out, and Liza Minnelli moved in".
Julie Dawn Cole kept her everlasting gobstopper and her golden ticket. On the DVD commentary, she admits that she stole it from the set. Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, said he returned it because he was told to.
Director Mel Stuart initially wanted to reveal that Willy Wonka had strategically placed the golden tickets in order to give the factory to Charlie. The idea was dropped, but the hints remained in the fact that Mr. Wilkerson conveniently showed up every time a ticket was uncovered.
While giving interviews as part of the 40th Anniversary celebration of the theatrical release, Denise Nickerson mentioned that, because of all the gum she had to chew as Violet, she ended up with 13 cavities. The reason is that, although sugarless gum WAS around in the early 1970s, the formula was a bit different than that of modern sugarless gums and didn't make very good bubbles. So Denise was stuck chewing regular, sugared gum.
The "kids" in the DVD commentary say (03:14 and 11:15) the child named Winkelman is played by director Mel Stuart's son Peter Stuart, that the uncredited boy sitting in front of Peter Ostrum in the classroom scenes (10:16 and 31:04) is Bobby Roe, son of first assistant director Jack Roe, and that the uncredited girl with pigtails in the classroom across the aisle from Peter (11:05 and 30:54) is played by Madeline, the director's daughter. In the featurette "Pure Imagination", Mel mentions his daughter was ten years old in 1970 when she read the book and suggested to him that he approach "Uncle Dave" (producer David L. Wolper) with the idea of turning the book into a movie.
According the director Mel Stuart in the documentary "Pure Imagination", the title of the original book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was changed to "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" due to a chocolate bar promotion that was tied in with the release of the film.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the DVD commentary, Peter Ostrum mentions that, toward the end of the shoot (with him being the only kid left) he and Gene Wilder often ate lunch together. Fittingly, they finished those lunches by sharing a chocolate bar for dessert as they walked back to the set.
In Willy's office at the end of the movie, Charlie's stunned reaction to the candy maker yelling at him is real. Per director Mel Stuart's "Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" Peter Ostrum was not told beforehand that Willy would be yelling at Charlie. Stuart felt that doing it that way would allow for a better, more real, reaction from Charlie. Gene Wilder mentioned in Pure Imagination: The Story of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' (2001) that he wanted more than anything to warn Peter about the yelling beforehand (particularly because the two actors had become good friends during the filming and Wilder wanted Ostrum to be assured that he was only acting and that of course he still loved him), but Stuart forbade it.
According to director Mel Stuart's book "Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", the reason everything in Willy's office is cut in half was because Stuart couldn't bear the thought of - after having gone through all the whimsical and creative rooms in the factory - ending the movie in an ordinary office. Everything was cut in half to make the room look more Wonka-esque.
The scene of Mike's demise was difficult to film. When seen far away while in the TV, it was accomplished through blue screen. While seen in the TV from close up, Paris Themmen (Mike) was standing on a platform on a huge television set. The shot where Mrs. Teavee picks him up was a doll, and the single shot where we see a closeup of Mike dangling from his mom's fingers (at around 1h 30 mins) was accomplished by having Paris dangle from a Styrofoam thumb and forefinger covered with fabric.
Since this was filmed before the days of CGI, one of the visual effects that needed to be accomplished was Violet turning blue. At the time, the development of color layering was in process. According to the book, Violet's face and hair turns blue. The director worked with it but was only able to turn her face blue. Further development of the color layering was perfected by the time the first Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was released and was ready for use to make the light-saber concept look good.
A dummy made up to look like actor Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop) was used for the scene where Augustus gets stuck in the pipe, specifically during the long shots of the guests watching him from across the river and when he eventually shoots up the pipe. This is actually referenced in the audio commentary on the DVD/Blu-ray. A picture of the dummy can even be seen in the 'Cast/Crew' section on the 30th Anniversary DVD of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).
The scene of Violet Beareguarde's demise where she swells up into a blueberry was done in two takes. Take one was pumping air into an inflatable suit, and take two involved stuffing Denise Nickerson into a two piece Styrofoam cut out. When rolling Denise around in her blueberry suit, the Oompa Loompas had a hard time controlling the rolling actress and would send her crashing into the wall several times (prompting Denise to say in the DVD commentary that the Oompa Loompas didn't have their "blueberry driver's licenses").
The scene of Veruca's "demise", was filmed on Veruca actress Julie Dawn Cole's 13th birthday, on Monday, October 26th, 1970. Julie Dawn Cole was born on Saturday, October 26th, 1957. In the DVD commentary, she said 'no one wished her a happy birthday' and Denise Nickerson starts singing (at approximately 1 hour & 19 minutes).
In the scene where Wonka angrily reads to Charlie and Grandpa Joe the contract out loud, he reads two lines in Latin: "Fax mentis incendium gloriae" and "Memo bis punitor delicatum". The first line roughly translates to "The torch of glory kindles the mind". The second line, as it is heard in the movie, is actually gibberish. The closest Latin equivalent would be "Memor bis punitor delictum", which translates to "I am mindful [that] the crime is punished twice (or in two ways)."