I remember reading on IMDb, that you told Tim Burton that you had never seen the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I don’t think I have read anything on your site about that subject. Have you in fact seen the original Willy Wonka? What do you advise on that anyway? And is Charlie a remake or sequel or neither?

–Richard
Gold Coast, Australia

First off, I’m hesitant to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil anything about the new movie.

It’s true that when Tim Burton asked me to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, my first question was whether I should watch the original movie. (It’s not like I was raised off the grid by hippie survivalists, but somehow I had never seen it.) Tim urged me not to watch it until after I handed in the first draft, which I think was wise.

Halfway into my second draft, I finally watched the 1971 Gene Wilder version, and it was jarring. No disrespect to the movie, which is obviously beloved by a generation of my peers, but it was visually and narratively very, very different from Roald Dahl’s book. True, most of the main story elements were still there, such as the rotten children and the chocolate river. But some of the choices made – killing off Charlie’s father, adding Slugworth, the acid trip on the pink boat — wouldn’t have been my choices.

And in some ways, it’s great that the original movie did its own thing, because it gives the new movie a chance to use some of the overlooked parts of Dahl’s book. (But no, I won’t divulge which parts those are.)

Although the press will inevitably call this a remake of Willy Wonka, it should properly be called a new version of Roald Dahl’s book. I honestly think that if the 1971 movie had never been made, we would still be making this one. It’s testimony to the timelessness of Dahl’s books that they remain so popular today.