THEN AND NOW: The cast of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' over 52 years later

gene wilder then and now
The late Gene Wilder starred as Willy Wonka.Paramount Pictures; John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images
  •  "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" debuted over 50 years ago. 

  • Gene Wilder was well known when he played Wonka, and he continued acting until the early 2000s.

  • Some of the actors, including Peter Ostrum, quit show business after appearing in the movie.

Peter Ostrum was 12 when he played Charlie Bucket, and he stopped acting after the film.

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Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket (left) and in 2014 (right).Paramount Pictures; Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Peter Ostrum was scouted for the role of Charlie at 12 while he was participating in a local children's theater. No script existed at that point, so his audition consisted of him reading from Roald Dahl's novel "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

"Willy Wonka" remains Ostrum's only feature-film credit.

He told the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2000 that while people often think acting is "glamorous," he found it to be a rather "difficult profession."

Instead, he became a doctor of veterinary medicine in 1984 after attending Cornell University.

Before retiring, he worked as a vet at New York's Countryside Veterinary Clinic, mainly working with dairy cows.

Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka, continued acting until the early 2000s.

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Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka (left) and in 2013 (right).Paramount Pictures; John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images

From the moment he somersaulted out of his factory, the characters (and the audience) were captivated by Gene Wilder as the titular Willy Wonka.

Before signing on to the role, the actor was best known for movies like "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) and "The Producers" (1967).

Wilder is still perhaps best known for "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971), but he went on to an illustrious acting career after the film.

He starred in "Blazing Saddles" (1974), cowrote and starred in "Young Frankenstein" (1974), and gave a Golden Globe-nominated performance in "Silver Streak" (1976).

The actor also went on to star on the NBC sitcom "Something Wilder," and he had a two-episode arc on NBC's "Will and Grace," which earned him an Emmy.

After 2003, he pivoted away from acting and published a few books, including his 2005 memoir, "Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art."

He died in 2016 at the age of 83 after experiencing complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Veruca Salt was actress Julie Dawn Cole's first role, and she later wrote a book about her time working on the movie.

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Julie Dawn Cole as Veruca Salt (left) and in 2017 (right).Paramount Pictures; Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images for Fashion Media

Julie Dawn Cole brought bratty Veruca Salt to life in her first-ever acting role.

After "Willy Wonka," the actress largely found success on TV on shows like ITV's "And Mother Makes Three," BBC's "Angels," BBC's "Poldark," ITV's "Married for Life," and BBC's "Casualty."

In 2011, Cole published her memoir, "I Want It Now! A Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

After 2013, she switched careers and became a psychotherapist at a cancer center

She told blog From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors that she switched careers because "it was time to do something more meaningful."

But she still posts about "Willy Wonka" on her Instagram.

Denise Nickerson played Violet Beauregarde, but she only acted for seven more years after "Willy Wonka."

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Denise Nickerson as Violet Beauregarde (left) and in 2014 (right).Paramount Pictures; Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

The champion gum-chewer Violet Beauregarde was played by Denise Nickerson.

Before joining the cast, the actress was best known for her roles on ABC's "Dark Shadows."

She went on to star on PBS' "The Electric Company," and she had a guest role on ABC's "The Brady Bunch" before her final acting role in "Zero to Sixty" (1978).

At the age of 21, she stepped away from acting and became a receptionist.

Nickerson died in 2019 at the age of 62 after complications from seizures and a stroke.

Paris Themmen brought the TV-obsessed Mike Teavee to the big screen, but he later gave up acting to pursue other passions.

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Paris Themmen as Mike Teavee (left) and in 2017 (right).Paramount Pictures; Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for TCM

Paris Themmen was just under 12 when he took on his first major role in "Willy Wonka." Before that, he'd appeared in multiple television commercials and acted on Broadway.

After working on the film, he appeared in a handful of acting projects, including an episode of UPN's "Star Trek: Voyager." He also stepped behind the camera to assistant direct "The Owner" (2012).

But he also developed a passion for traveling. Themmen backpacked through more than 30 countries by his 30th birthday, and by 2015, he'd hit 60 countries. He even cofounded a travel service.

Since "Willy Wonka," he's worked in everything from real estate to Walt Disney Imagineering to financial consulting, and he also appeared as a contestant on "Jeopardy" in 2018.

German actor Michael Bollner played the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, which was the actor's only film credit.

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Michael Bollner as Augustus Gloop (left) and in 2014 (right).Paramount Pictures; Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Michael Bollner starred as Augustus Gloop, the first child to fall victim to the Wonka factory.

It was his only acting role, and instead of pursuing more after "Willy Wonka," he went to law school.

As of 2016, he was working as a tax lawyer in Munich, Germany.

Jack Albertson played Charlie's lovable Grandpa Joe, which was one of his last big roles.

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Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe.Paramount Pictures

Jack Albertson took on the role of Charlie's Grandpa Joe, who accompanied him on the tour of the factory.

The actor's successful career began in the 1940s and stretched on for four decades.

He's well known for projects like NBC's " The Thin Man," "Son of Flubber" (1963), "The Subject Was Roses" (1968), NBC's "Ensign O'Toole," and ITV's "Police Surgeon."

After "Willy Wonka," he starred in "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) and on NBC's "Chico and the Man." He also voiced a character in "The Fox and the Hound" (1981).

His final acting credit was in the TV movie "Terror at Alcatraz" (1982), but he died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 74.

Charlie's mom was played by Diana Sowle, who went on to a few more roles.

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Diana Sowle as Mrs. Bucket (left) and in 2014 (right).Paramount Pictues; Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Diana Sowle appeared in the film as the hardworking (and often underappreciated) Mrs. Bucket.

It was her first film role, but she'd done some theater work in Germany before taking it on.

After "Willy Wonka," Sowle appeared in "Guarding Tess" (1994) and "Clear and Present Danger" (1994), and she voiced characters for two of the "Fall Out" video games.

The actress was also a longtime performer in the murder-mystery play "Shear Madness."

She died in 2018 at the age of 88.

Günter Meisner played the creepy Arthur Slugworth, and he went on to more big roles.

Günter Meisner as Arthur Slugworth.Paramount Pictures

Rival candy maker Arthur Slugworth was played by German actor Günter Meisner.

Before "Willy Wonka," he started appearing in both German and English-language films and TV series in 1957.

Among dozens of other roles, he was well known for his portrayal of Adolf Hitler on ITV's "Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years," in "Ace of Aces" (1982), and on ABC's "The Winds of War."

Meisner died of heart failure in 1994 at the age of 68.

Rusty Goffe played one of the Oompa Loompas, and he's gone on to have a successful acting career.

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Rusty Goffe as an Oompa Loompa (left) and in 2017 (right).Paramount Pictures; Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for TCM

A group of 10 actors played the Wonka factory's Oompa Loompas, including Rusty Goffe, who was heavily featured in the film.

It was his first film role, and he went on to appear in "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" (1977), "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (1979), "Willow" (1988), "Fred Claus" (2007), and four of the "Harry Potter" movies. He was also on BBC's "Stupid."

Most recently, Goffe appeared in "Spidarlings" (2016).

This story was originally published on March 20, 2021, and most recently updated on January 23, 2024. 

Read the original article on Business Insider