Warner Bros. is narrowing down the candidates to play young Willy Wonka in the planned prequel, with Tom Holland and Timothée Chalamet at the top.
Warner Bros. is reportedly very close to casting a young Willy Wonka for Wonka, with Tom Holland and Timothée Chalamet at the top of the list. The prequel film has been in the works for some time and will tell the story of the famed candy maker’s early years. The film’s planned release date was recently announced for March 17, 2023. Wonka will be directed by Paul King and produced by David Heyman, the duo who previously delivered the critically-acclaimed Paddington.
Willy Wonka was already a popular character when he first appeared in Roald Dahl’s beloved book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but he ascended to astronomical renown and popularity after being played by gene Wilder in the 1971 film adaptation. The movie remains a classic even fifty years after its release, despite Dahl’s own dislike for the film. Johnny Depp played the role of the eccentric candy man in the less-lauded 2005 remake, and now a new star will bring Willy Wonka to the screen once more.
According to reports from Collider, Holland and Chalamet are currently the frontrunners to play the role. Neither actor has been offered the role, and it’s unknown whether either of them are pursuing the iconic character, but Warner Bros. does have their eye on them.
The two actors are both in their mid-20s and, in many ways, have risen up to mirror one another as two of the most accomplished young stars of their generation. Either could potentially play a stellar Wonka and would each bring something distinct to the table depending on what direction Warner Bros. wants to take the project. Regardless of who ends up playing the mythical confectioner, Warner will have other issues reckoning with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s complicated racial legacy. The Oompa-Loompas who work in Willy Wonka’s factory are at the heart of that legacy, originally described in the book’s early editions as “African pygmies” who Wonka “discovered” and brought to work in his factory. Even when this directly colonialist language was altered, the problem of the Oompa Loompas stayed the same, carrying on highly problematic traditions of imperialism and racist caricature.
Early casting rumors for Wonka from 2018 included Donald Glover as a likely choice, a move that many fans celebrated as a step in the right direction for the franchise to amend its problematic history. Those plans seem to have changed if the reports from Collider are correct. With the new film set to explore Willy Wonka’s early life, there’s certainly still plenty of potential to do justice to the series’ positive legacy while also contending with its more offensive elements. How that plays out won’t become fully clear until Wonka releases in 2023.