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Why The ‘Willy Wonka’ Reboot Should Have A Black Actor Play Charlie

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the most famous children’s books of all time and has undergone two film adaptations; the beloved Gene Wilder edition (1971), and the more chilling Johnny Depp, “Willy Wonka” (2005). With a third “Willy Wonka” reboot in the works, there is only one way to honor Dahl’s original vision: cast a black actor to play Charlie Bucket.

When Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964, he wrote the main character as a young black boy. Charlie remained a black character until Dahl’s agent forced him to make Charlie white, according to Dahl’s biographer, Donald Sturrock. The agent apparently said that “People would ask why!”  In 2017 Felicity Dahl, Roald Dahl’s widow spoke about his original vision. She said that it was a “great pity” that each film adaptation has featured a white protagonist. When asked what she thought about another adaptation, but featuring a black hero she said, “that would be wonderful.”  The fact that Roald Dahl wrote Charlie as a black character will negate any vengeful “purists’” supposed argument, with claims that diversifying the film will stray from the initial message, such as what happened during the casting of Hermione in the “Cursed Child” Harry Potter play.

In 2016, after Gene Wilder, the original star of the 1971 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, passed away, Warner Brothers acquired the rights to the film. Many said it was time to restore the movie’s name after the 2005 version was essentially deemed a flop. Others said that the last reboot was too recent, and toyed with the movie too much already. However, the director of the Paddington movies Paul King, and the Harry Potter – Fantastic Beasts producer David Heymen have both been selected, which encourages many due to the success of their reboot films. While the list of characters to be featured is yet to be released, many suspect that classic characters such as Oompa Loompas, Slugworth, and the Bucket family will be featured, as the studio has announced that  they won’t be taking a typical take on Wonka’s origin story (many disliked the dark flashbacks of the 2005 Depp version).

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The only list of potentially cast actors includes a short list of  Ezra Miller, Ryan Gosling, and Donald Glover. Miller is very experienced and has credibility with Warner Brothers, and certainly has the flair needed, but is less of a household name as Gosling and Glover. This leaves many considering the most likely candidates to be Gosling and Glover. They are both widely respected and experienced actors, but with very different resumes. Gosling is a Warner Brothers favorite, but it is thought that Glover has a much better connection to the younger generation. Especially as Glover played Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star War’s Story (many saying he was the best part of the movie), and the fact that he’ll be Simba in the Lion King reboot set to be released July of 2019. While the process of casting has been kept very secretive, Glover is reportedly, “actively chasing the role”. Last time Glover had his mind set on a role he went in for more auditions than the main character himself. There is no word from the studios as to Charlie’s role yet.

Many film adaptations and reboots stray too far from the original text, such as in the 2005 adaptation, which still leaves many Dahl fans bitter. The only way to truly do Dahl justice and make the latest adaptation as magical as Wonka’s factory is to bring to life Dahl’s original vision which he originally thought could only be “pure imagination”. Charlie Bucket must be played by a black actor.


Featured Image via Hotwire

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Helen Ehrlich is a writer who enjoys politics, music, all things literary, activism and charity work. She lives in the United States, where she attends school. Email her at:

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