Hollywood loves brand awareness. They love it more than life itself. A studio is far more likely to give a green light to an established property than to something fresh and original, because that’s just how it goes. It’s nothing new – Tinseltown has been doing this for decades. But that doesn’t make it any less draining. The latest example: Wonka, a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel movie that explores the origins of chocolatier and child murderer Willy Wonka. It sounds unnecessary, but there’s one silver lining: Paul King, the filmmaker behind the wonderful Paddington films, is at the helm.
If that news sounds familiar, that’s because this movie has been in the works for some time now. But now it has a release date.
Warner Bros. is moving ahead with Wonka, a prequel that will focus on Willy Wonka’s early days. The project has been kicking around for a while, and back in 2018, it was reported that Paddington director Paul King would helm a script from Simon Rich (An American Pickle). There’s been little movement on the film since then, but today it’s being reported that WB is plowing ahead with King and Rich’s version, locking down a March 17, 2023 theatrical release date in the process.
Paddington and Harry Potter producer David Heyman is producing the flick, and in 2016, Heyman told /Film:
“It’s not a remake. They’ve done two films, quite different. But it’s possibly an origin story. We’re just in the early stages of it, working with a writer called Simon Rich, which is wonderful…I think there’s a lot in his character that suggests who he is and also where he might come from or what his childhood or his middle age might have been like. So we’re exploring that. We’re discussing it. We’re in the very early stages and very excited about what lies ahead.”
Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1964 and adapted into the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder delivering a memorable performance as Wonka. The story was adapted yet again with Tim Burton’s 2005 movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which featured Johnny Depp as Wonka. Burton’s film actually introduced a new backstory for the character, showing him as the child of a chocolate-hating dentist. But that storyline is unlikely to show up in this new prequel.
I love Paul King’s Paddington movies, but I’m having a hard time drumming up much enthusiasm for a Willy Wonka prequel. What else is there to say about the character, really? Part of the magic of the character is that he’s so mysterious. If you fill in his backstory that mystery goes away. But hey, what the hell do I know, right? Can’t wait to see what hot young actor they cast as hot young Wonka! According to Collider, Tom Holland and Timothée Chalamet are both being sought after for the role, because of course they are.