Timothée Chalamet’s Wonka: is it so wrong to find him scrumdiddlyumptious?

The actor’s in-costume Instagram post has caused social media users to accuse the film-makers of “making Willy Wonka sexy” – but Wonka-lust is hardly new

In a sentence I never thought I’d ever write, Timothée Chalamet has revealed his Wonka on Instagram. Chalamet is, of course, currently filming the Willy Wonka movie prequel, and his post last night gave the world its first look at this new iteration.

Judging by the internet, there are essentially two ways to react to it. The first is to be disgusted that Hollywood has bastardised one of the all-time great children’s characters by inventing a brand new backstory, with no input from its creator, for cash. The second is just to get really, really horny.

“Timotheè [sic] Chalamet as sexy Willy Wonka is exciting and confusing,” wrote one tweeter after the new Wonka was unveiled. “WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT TO MAKE WILLY WONKA SEXY SO BADLY,” tweeted another in fits of lust-crazed despair. A third, in a moment of what can only be described as plaintive ambition, simply announced: “im gonna fuck willy wonka”.

To anyone familiar with the various movie adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this might seem slightly absurd. After all, the previous Willy Wonka was played by Johnny Depp in his imperial phase. True, he played Wonka as a creepy Michael Jackson-alike, but this was still pre-cancellation Depp, before he transmogrified into Marlon Brando: Nightclub Bouncer. Thirty years earlier, Gene Wilder’s Wonka was mysterious and sly, with a barely concealed dark side – in short, he’s the Wonka your girlfriend told you not to worry about.

Maybe it’s time we came to terms with the fact that Willy Wonka, in whatever guise, is sexy. Here is a man who built a factory devoted to the pursuit of pleasure. But at the same time he wants you to know that pleasure comes at a cost. Do as he says and great fortune awaits. Defy him and you die. Basically, Willy Wonka invented Squid Game, and nothing on God’s green earth is sexier than that.

That said, having Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka removes some of the character’s paternalism. In Wonka, we will get to see Willy before he became Wonka. He’s still rough around the edges, waiting to be formed. Remember Christian Bale in Batman Begins? Remember Daniel Craig in Casino Royale? Both those films took beloved, established characters and dragged you back to when they were lean and hungry, vulnerable and full of desire. That’s the sort of Wonka we’re going to get in Wonka; the sort of Wonka who’ll do to a generation of teenage girls what David Bowie did to a different generation when he starred in Labyrinth.

Now I could be completely wrong here. Chalamet’s Instagram depicted a fairly traditional Willy Wonka. His velvet jacket is adorned with a simple floral flourish, and his trademark top hat is intact. You could pop any actor in that costume and they’d look like a normal Willy Wonka. Wonka is being made by the team behind Paddington, so there is every reason to believe this film is going to be warm and sweet and funny and whimsical. When it is released, unless something goes horribly wrong, there is a strong likelihood that it will become instantly beloved by all the family.

But still. Look at Timothée Chalamet’s jawline. Stare into his eyes, gazing offscreen with a mixture of longing and contempt. Try telling me that this isn’t going to be 50 Shades of Wonka in all but name. Wonka will be released in March 2023. None of us stand a chance.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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