Tom Wopat in: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

as: Willy Wonka

Please note that this Wopatization is for the 2005, Tim Burton-directed version of the story. The original, far superior Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder in the title role, is beyond reproach.

In this case, we’d replace Johnny Depp’s bizarre, misguided take on the character with a much more measured, but still stylized, portrayal by (of course) Tom Wopat.

What's the best way to lure unsuspecting kids into your creepy van?

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Key Changes

Wopat’s Wonka (Willy Wopat?) would be less of a Michael Jackson-esque weirdo and more in line with Wilder’s interpretation from 1971. No Prince Valiant haircut, no disturbingly perfect teeth, no squeaky voice. Costuming would remain largely the same, and the overall story would be essentially the same, but we’d eliminate the strange and unnecessary “Wonka’s father was a dentist” backstory thing. We’d also add a few new wrinkles and a gag or two that draw on Wopat’s most famous prior role.

Representative Scene: Veruca Salt & The Chocolate Factory’s Pneumatic Conveyors

After Augustus Gloop falls into the river of chocolate and Violet Beauregard turns violet, Veruca Salt comes across the Chocolate Factory’s squirrels, who are tasked with removing “bad nuts” from the good ones that will eventually go into Wonka’s chocolate bars. Veruca, being the spoiled rich kid she is, decides she wants one of the trained squirrels for her very own.

The squirrels don’t take kindly to these shenanigans and take matters into their own paws. (Here’s where we deviate from the script a bit.) Rather than let the squirrels be all evil and attack-y, Willy Wopat intervenes and prevents them from sending Veruca down the “bad nut” trash chute. Unpredictable critters that they are, the whole scurry takes up the offensive against Wonka and his visitors.

Using his Dukes of Hazzard stunt and fight training, Wopat engages the enraged squirrels in hand to paw combat. With a right hook here and a spin kick there, he’s dispatching the squirrels in rapid fashion. Though Willy Wopat is the only one actively fighting the squirrels, they are clearly intent on attacking the young Ms. Salt. The woodland critters’ sheer numbers quickly become too great to withstand.

Rather than continuing to battle the squirrels, Willy Wopat instead shuffles Veruca over to a nearby giant tube with a curiously kid-sized and –shaped opening. It’s the same pneumatic conveying system that pulled Augustus from the chocolate reservoir, and as soon as Veruca’s inside, Wonka slides a previously-hidden panel closed and shwoop! Off she goes into the bowels of the Chocolate Factory, never to be seen again…

…until the end of the movie when they trot out all the kids to show that they weren’t really hurt or killed or anything, because family movie.

Photo credit: swanksalot via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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