A World of Pure Imagination, Re-Visted: The Cast of 1971's 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' Reunited

Photo: Joe Fryer/Twitter

Sorry, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory fans – that iconic chocolate river was more water than it was sugary goodness.

Forty-four years after gracing the big screen together in the film adaption of one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time, the 1971 cast of Willy Wonka reunited on Today, Wednesday – and dispelled some rumors.

Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde), Paris Themmen (Mike Teavee) and Rusty Goffe (Oompa Loompa) were all on hand for the reunion with NBC News’ Joe Fryer.

“We think of ourselves as a family, maybe a bit of a dysfunctional family, but a family really,” Themmen said, revealing that the cast still keeps in touch.

While the cast remains grateful for their childhood experience, many admitted it wasn’t all Hollywood glamour. Nickerson walked away with “13 cavities” from all her character’s gum chewing, and Cole – despite insisting it was “fun to be bad” – had to shed the perception that she was anything like the bratty Veruca.

“I feel bad though, we’re at the part of the interview where we’re sort of bursting people’s bubbles,” Themmen said, laughing.

Things that are a reality, however: Gene Wilder (who played Willy, himself) was a genuine pleasure to work with.

“Five kids clambering all over you, wanting his attention,” Cole said of the now-82-year-old. “There was never any ‘Please don’t bother Mr. Wilder.’ ”

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Most of the cast has left the business – Ostrum is a veterinarian – but they happily sign autographs and revisit their roles.

“We got to really see it, and experience it,” Nickerson said. “And the first thing people do when they find out who we are, they smile.”

And that they call the “Wonka effect.”

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