Forty-four years after Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory‘s theatrical premiere, six original cast members – five golden ticket winners, one Oompa Loompa – reunited for an interview with Today, reminiscing about their life-changing roles. “We think of ourselves as a family,” says Paris Themmen, who played the hot-headed, cowboy-obsessed Mike Teavee. “Maybe a bit of a dysfunctional family. But a family, really.”
Themmen, Julie Dawn Cole (bratty Veruca Salt), Michael Bollner (gluttonous Augustus Gloop), Denise Nickerson (gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde), Peter Ostrum (wide-eyed protagonist Charlie Bucket) and Rusty Goffe (the head Oompa Loompa) have stayed in touch over the years, often appearing together at fan conventions. Only Goffe remains a professional actor, while Ostrum left the industry to become a veterinarian.
The cast also share some set stories: Nickerson reveals that she no longer chews gum after returning from the shoot with 13 cavities, and Goffe explains that he needed 76 takes to finish one highly choreographed Oompa Loompa scene involving cartwheels. Bollner also shatters numerous childhood dreams by confirming that the iconic chocolate river was, in reality, not so magical: “I’m sorry,” he says. “It was water.”