Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson Also Star in “Wonka”

Assembling the cast of “Wonka” made director Paul King feel like a kid in a candy store.

“I felt so blessed to have been able to assemble this cast,” says King of the talented group of actors and actresses he got to work with in “Wonka,” led by Timothée Chalamet in the title role. “There were so many extraordinary people who were prepared to come and work with me. It felt like every time I asked whether somebody would be willing to do it and they said ‘yes,’ I felt like the kid in the candy store.”

One of the people who said yes to King was a hero of his, Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson. “Rowan is one of my longtime comedy heroes and it was an honor and delight to work with him,” says King. “He plays a priest at the city cathedral [it’s not his first time in clerical attire] and he has to answer a phone with the words “Hello, pulpit!” It’s the sort of line only Rowan could deliver!

PH WONKA INSTA VERT Character Art Rowan Atkinson 1638x2048 INTL proxy

Another role King felt only one person could portray according to his imagination was that of the Oompa Loompa. According to King, the only voice that came to his head every time he came across the Oompa Loompas while reading Roald Dahl’s classic belonged to that of another ’90s favorite: Hugh Grant. 

“Paul and I were always in contact vaguely since ‘Paddington 2,’ and then I think he just emailed me one day and said he was doing ‘Wonka,’” shares Grant about how his “Paddington 2” director offered him a role in “Wonka.” “He has been nuts about Roald Dahl since he was a kid, in exactly the same way that he was obsessed with Michael Bond and ‘Paddington,’ ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ was one of his favorite books. And then he explained how much he loved the Oompa Loompas in those early films, particularly for being so unpleasant. And he said, ‘Whenever I think of someone really curmudgeonly and unpleasant, I immediately think of you.’ And so that was his pitch.”

PH WONKA INSTA VERT Character Art Hugh Grant 1638x2048 INTL proxy

To create his version of the iconic Oompa Loompas, Grant “ended up reading the book and watching the earlier films,” shares the actor. “And then I thought, ‘How do we make this different?’ But I definitely thought the key was to keep the sort of negativity and anger, the curmudgeonly old bastard element of the Oompa Loompa. This is my speciality. The Oompa Loompa in this film is propelled by those things, but also by a sort of sadness and a kind of loneliness. He’s been ostracized, chucked out of his homeland and his home tribe for letting them down. And he’s on a mission to try and win back their favors.”

“Wonka,” produced by David Heyman (Harry Potter films) and which also stars Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key, Sally Hawkins and Calah Lane, opens in Philippine cinemas, including in IMAX, December 6. 

Watch the trailer below: