50 years on: Veruca Salt actor Julie Dawn Cole on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny Depp and Roald Dahl

Virgin Radio

30 Jun 2021, 12:07

It's been 50 years since the phenomenal, fantastical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory floated onto our screens. Half a century later, the iconic classic is still so loved and firmly fixed onto the hearts of children and adults like a welded-on gobstopper.

Star of the 1971 movie, the ever-fabulous Julie Dawn Cole who played the brilliantly vile Veruca Salt, told Metro.co.uk: "I was 12 when we started it – you have no concept of time when you’re 12! If somebody had told me I’d still be talking about this film in 50 years time, it’s a crazy thought.

"It didn’t do very well at the box office when it came out. It was very reliant on box office success and Willy Wonka had kind of been and gone within three or four weeks in the UK and it was like 'Oh, okay'.

"So it’s a strange thing, the cult that it’s become, because it disappeared for so long and I think it was probably the 80s when it came back."

On Roald Dahl, she said: "I met him on a couple of occasions. He was a difficult man, he was tricky. He didn’t get on with the director, Mel Stuart. But Mel was difficult too!

"Mel’s take was 'You don’t make a movie of a book, you make a movie of a screenplay' so there would have to be changes – and Roald Dahl didn’t like things being changed. He was quite pedantic about things. He objected to one word – he would be that pedantic about certain things.

"For what I’m told as well, his choice for Willy Wonka was Spike Milligan, which would have been a very different take! Perhaps there were clashes, clashes before we even got started I think. You’ve got two very strong-minded men with very different visions."

On the late great Gene Wilder, she said: "He was such a lovely man, so kind and those beautiful blue eyes!

"Absolutely twinkling blue eyes. He was lovely, he was funny, not wildly extroverted really. He was just Gene, sitting in the corner with everybody else, getting on with it.

"He and Roy Kinnear who played Veruca’s father, Henry Salt had some wonderful chemistry – they played off each other. You could see that, you got the sense that they liked each other."

On the remake starring Johnny Depp, she said: "At the time, it was kind of like, 'That’s a bit sad.' 


Credit: Warner Bros

"It’s a weird feeling to think that something that was so special to us, there’ll be someone else recreating it. But it was also time to let it go and thinking, 'Well, we’ve had 30 years – it’s time for someone else to take the baton on.'

"Instead it did us a favour. People took a look at that one and went, 'Hmm, not really sure' and they showed their kids the original one, and people became quite partisan about it. It reignited interest in the Gene Wilder version."

What a good egg.