Original 'Willy Wonka' Cast Say They're 'All Looking Forward' to Timothée Chalamet-Led Prequel

PEOPLE chats with the original cast of 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory about why they believe there's always room for more Wonka storytelling

Timothee Chalamet; Gene Wilder
Timothée Chalamet (L); Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Courtesy Everett Collection

The original cast of 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory have one thing to say about subsequent Wonka films: The more the merrier.

PEOPLE caught up with Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) and Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop) amid the iconic fantasy film's 50th anniversary this week, where they shared their views about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as the upcoming Timothée Chalamet-led Wonka prequel.

"Johnny Depp's version actually kind of helped our film," Ostrum, 63, says of 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Tim Burton. "Parents saw that film with their kids and their kids had never seen the original and the parents' reaction was, 'This was nice, but you need to see the original.' "

To that end, the actor-turned-veterinarian tells PEOPLE, "It brought the original film back to the forefront again."

"It introduced a whole new generation — a whole new audience to the original film," he adds.

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Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Warner Brothers
Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Warner Brothers/Courtesy Everett Collection

Gene Wilder led the 1971 musical version, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, while Depp, 58, took over as the eccentric chocolatier in the reimagined version over three decades later. Both films are based on Roald Dahl's 1964 children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Titled Wonka and set for release in 2023, the upcoming prequel starring Chalamet, 25, is being produced by David Heyman, written by Simon Rich and directed by Paddington director Paul King.

While no plot details are available yet, reps for Chalamet confirmed to both Variety and Deadline that he'll be singing and dancing in the film, just as the late Wilder did in the original movie.

"As Julie likes to say, 'There's room for all of us. We can all play well together in the sandbox,' " Ostrum tells PEOPLE of Cole, 63. "And the prequel will shed more light on early Wonka."

"But again, there's been so many different versions of Willy Wonka, be it on Broadway, opera, a pinball machine … you can't kill the Willy Wonka story," he adds. "So all of it is good. It's a great story. And people enjoy whatever different version they're watching; it's fun to watch. So I think we're all looking forward to the prequel."

Wonka 50th Anniversary
Clockwise from top left: Julie Dawn Cole, Paris Themmen, Peter Ostrum and Michael Bollner. Courtesy of Warner Brothers

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As for Wilder, Themmen, 61, tells PEOPLE that he cast has "nothing but nice things" to say about the late actor, who died at age 83 in 2016 of complications from Alzheimer's disease.

"We were all very fond of Gene," Themmen says. "He was obviously a very talented guy, but also a very nice guy."

He also remembers meeting Wilder again decades later at a screening of one of his movies, where he reminded the veteran actor they'd starred together in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory when Themmen was 11 years old.

"And he said, 'Oh, you were a brat.' [I responded], 'Yes, I'm 50-something now, so maybe not as much of a brat,' " Themmen recalls. "And he said, 'Oh yes, certainly.' And he signed [the poster], 'To my favorite brat.' "

He jokes, "That's the advice that I got: Is to be his favorite brat, I guess."

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is available now on 4K Ultra HD on amazon.com.

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