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willy wonka

Pop Culture

How Gene Wilder came up with Willy Wonka's iconic entrance

He brought so much thought and heart to the character.

upload.wikimedia.org Credit: Warner Bros

Gene Wilder was one of the best.

The late, great Gene Wilder brought us so much magic through his delightfully quirky, timelessly charming, endlessly memorable roles, not least of which is the mysterious, top-hat-wearing chocolate factory owner, Willy Wonka, for the hit film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

From Wonka’s first entrance, pitifully limping towards Charlie and the other confused golden ticket bearers…all before thrusting himself into an impressive somersault…you knew you really were about to be taken on a fantastical ride of pure imagination.

According to Historic Vids on X, formerly known as Twitter, that beginning moment was entirely by Wilder’s ingenious design.

“One of the key reasons Gene Wilder introduced the limp…was to make it difficult for the audience to tell if he was lying or not," Historic Vids wrote, saying that Wilder felt it would keep the “audience guessing” as to the character’s true intention.

Therefore, the limp was much more of a psychological quirk than a physical one, adding on a delightful piece of nuance and complexity.

Watch below, with that context in mind:

One commenter added the fun fact that Wonka only agreed to take on the role if he could do a limp-somersault-bit, knowing the kind of mercurial effect it would have.

Some actors really do seem to be born for the roles they play. Gene Wilder as Wonka is certainly one of them. Yes, the role has been reincarnated by Johnny Depp and is soon to be once again by Timothée Chalamet, each with their own unique interpretations. But there’s no denying that Wilder left behind a little bit of his wondrous soul in his version, and we are so lucky to have it.