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Timothée Chalamet Says ‘Wonka’ Was His Most Challenging Role Yet – Monomaxos

Timothée Chalamet stars in the movie musical Wonka, a prequel that tells the origin story of the iconic chocolatier from Roald Dahl’s 1964 book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the film, the Golden Globe nominee showcases his singing and dancing skills, bringing a fresh spin on the beloved candymaker.

“This was the most physically challenging project I’ve ever done,” Chalamet told Vanity Fair at the movie’s Los Angeles premiere on Sunday. “I can’t say the singing and dancing comes easy. I’ve been around musical theater my whole life, and danced a little bit in high school, but this was on a different level. It’s different doing it on film. You’ve got to keep being in the center of the frame while dancing, you’ve got to rehearse for months, you’ve got to be on for every take—take 12 and all the other takes—and dance with professional dancers, who are icing their ankles. That’s how serious they were taking it. So it was a big challenge.”

Chalamet’s musical talents can be traced back to his time at New York City’s famed LaGuardia High School, where he played Oscar in the musical Sweet Charity and the Emcee in Cabaret. The Oscar-nominated actor previously showed off his vocal skills in 2019’s A Rainy Day in New York. For Wonka, he spent three months in choreography boot camp with Tony winner Christopher Gattelli, learning intricate dance numbers that included a variety of styles such as tap, waltz, and a flying sequence that required him and costar Calah Lane to be harnessed in the air.

In addition to dancing, Chalamet did vocal training with British music supervisor James Taylor. He croons six original songs from songwriter Neil Hannon in the movie, and also performs a new rendition of “Pure Imagination,” first sung—and popularized—by Gene Wilder in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

“Singing ‘Pure Imagination,’ that almost felt sacrilegious to go near, cause Gene Wilder does it so perfectly,” said Chalamet. “Gene Wilder’s version is the best, as it should be, and the song is sort of the centerpiece of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. But my version of the song is sort of the send-off in our movie. The song is the same, but the messaging is a little different.”

Wonka, out in theaters December 15, follows a young and eager Willy Wonka, who moves to the city to pursue his dream of opening his very own chocolate shop after the death of his chocolatier mom (Sally Hawkins). Unlike the Gene Wilder movie and Tim Burton’s 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake starring Johnny Depp, Wonka writer-director Paul King says his Wonka is cheerful and full of optimism.

“When we first meet Willy Wonka in the movie, he hasn’t really become the character that so many of us grew up with. But you feel there’s so much joy, love, and kindness in him,” said King, who also helmed the highly acclaimed Paddington movies. “He believes his dreams are possible and discovers who he is, but also finds a family. The theme of the movie is about the families that we are born into and the lasting impression they made, and the families that we find along the way. It’s really beautiful and bittersweet.”

“The movie is heartfelt and sincere,” added Chalamet. “These are the kind of movies that we need now, and it will leave a smile on your face.”

A Willy Wonka origin story wouldn’t be complete without an Oompa-Loompa. Hugh Grant also appears in the film as Lofty, an 18-inch-tall orange Oompa-Loompa with green hair who is tracking Wonka around the world. King previously worked with Grant on Paddington 2, and persuaded the British star to take on the role. He even got Grant to sing the “Oompa-Loompa” theme song from the 1971 movie.

“I’m sure Hugh will give you a very grumpy answer, but the truth is, we really make each other laugh. I was able to say to him, I’ve got a small, malevolent character, which I think you would be glorious in playing, and he went for it after a four-hour turnaround,” said King. “He was keen. For a heartthrob, he was very happy to look ridiculous. I think it entertained him as much as anyone.”

King has crafted a world for Wonka that is fantastical, but the movie also boasts real, edible, and delectable chocolates. Gabriella Cugno, a real-life chocolatier from the set decorating and props team, created over 2,000 chocolates to be consumed onscreen by the actors in the course of the movie. All of her chocolates were completely hand-tempered and handmade with all-natural ingredients. She even observed dietary requirements and made vegan versions as well. Cugno also assembled edible flowers, mushrooms, tree bark, and teacups.

“Every piece of chocolate that I ate was real, and all the chocolates were bespoke,” said Keegan-Michael Key, who dons a fat suit to play a chief of police who accepts payment in sweets. “So when you watch the movie, any piece of chocolate you see, it’s not wax. It’s not like they cut to a prop that looks like a piece of chocolate; the chocolatier made all of it. Sometimes, it was so delicious that I asked for an extra take.”

Wonka never gives up to achieve his dream in opening a chocolate shop, and Chalamet is emulating his onscreen character’s sincere, positive thinking. “I’m living my dreams today. I’m very grateful,” said the actor, who next appears in Dune: Part Two. “My dream is to continue to work and for good health for my family.”
Meet the author behind the lifestyle inspiration! Antonio brings a unique perspective to the world of lifestyle, weaving together words that captivate and ideas that resonate. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for embracing the richness of everyday life, Antonio invites you on a journey to explore the art of living well.


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