MANILA, PHILIPPINES — All the singing and dancing aside, Timothée Chalamet, who plays the beloved chocolatier in Wonka, is most proud of being part of “a joyous movie, that is about bringing a light into a world that is in desperate need of it,” he said.
When Timothée read Wonka, he felt “the classic thespian challenge—the singing, the dancing.” The film’s reason for being, he said though, “is to bring joy into the world.”
He added, “It’s to encourage dreaming; to encourage the dreamers to continue dreaming; to encourage declaring yourself as you are, who you are, without question. It’s to declare that to share in kindness and enthusiasm is to paint a way forward, not only for yourself but for those around you. It’s about community, and it’s about community surviving in spaces of erosion. It’s about light and love. I’m so proud to have been a part of that.”
Wonka, an intoxicating mix of magic and music, mayhem and emotion, tells the story of Willy Wonka’s younger days when he was just starting out as a chocolate maker hoping to share his chocolate with the world by setting up shop at the cathedral of candy known as the Galeries Gourmet, with nothing but a few sovereigns (coins) and a hat full of dreams. A prequel to the 2005 hit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka, based on the beloved character created by best-selling children’s book author Roald Dahl, is written and directed by Paul King (Paddington films) and produced by David Heyman (the Harry Potter movies).
To make sure he does the iconic character of Willy Wonka justice, Timothée worked hard in preparation for the role, especially for the singing and dancing bits. “I had a lot of singing and vocal training with our head of the music department, the British James Taylor, not the other James Taylor,” he shared. “Also, there was a lot of dance training with Chris Gattelli, a fellow New Yorker and a fantastic choreographer. Then, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition. It was smart because, by the time the movie started, the physical stamina was there.
“I have to say that this was the most physically challenging project I’ve ever been on. This was every scene. There’s the enthusiasm of the character coupled with the fact that there isn’t a scene that’s really static. That’s not only great for the story, but it was also a great lesson as an actor. I was grateful to have that run up because of the shape I was able to get into.”
It helped that he had a great co-star in Calah Lane, who plays Noodle, a smart, cynical, sardonic young orphan who befriends Willy. Timothée was very much impressed with his younger co-star. “It’s a huge endeavor to be on a project when you’re this young. I was working as an actor at this age, but not on things this long, maybe a day or two here or there. She really has her head on her shoulders; she’s a fantastic actress,” said Timothée.
Lucky for Calah, there were days on set when she wasn’t the only kid. Timothée treasured such days too because they brought about a very positive energy. “The days when we had a lot of kids around, it brought a sincerity, an earnestness and a joy to the set, especially when you’re wearing the burgundy coat and you see the way people are reacting… It was great.”
Get ready for your sweet holiday treat. Wonka opens in Philippine cinemas on December 6, one week ahead of the USA perfect Christmas indeed!