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Where there’s a Willy

'Pirate's' Depp to take on Dahl role for helmer Burton

This article was updated at 6:00 PT on August 20, 2003

After meeting with director Tim Burton, Johnny Depp is poised for his fourth teaming with the director on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Depp has been offered the role of Willy Wonka in the Warner Bros. adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic.

Depp and Burton, who previously made “Edward Scissorhands,” “Ed Wood” and “Sleepy Hollow,” came away from their meeting sparked to make the film and negotiations are expected to begin shortly.

Depp is coming off “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the kind of summer hit that gets an actor a sweeter deal. Talks could certainly break down between WB and Depp’s UTA reps, but the betting is that Depp will be managing a brigade of chocolate-making Oompa Loompas next year.

Pic is being produced by Brad Grey and Richard Zanuck, and exec produced by Michael Siegel, who manages the interests of the Dahl estate.

The pairing of Burton and Depp would establish the film as a likely golden ticket for Warners. The studio has moved cautiously over the years to mount the remake, working in concert with the author’s estate. Even though Dahl adapted his novel for the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” he wasn’t thrilled with the result.

WB brass is eager to revive the pic about a mysterious chocolate maker’s attempt to find a worthy successor. Aside from merchandising and DVD opportunities, the hope is that a successful pic could spawn a stage musical.

A script for the film is still being readied. Scott Frank wrote a draft, followed by Gwyn Lurie, and Warners has hired Pamela Pettler to write the latest version. She got the job after scripting “The Corpse Bride,” the Mike Johnson-directed stop-motion animation film for Warner Bros. about a man who inadvertently marries a corpse.

“The Corpse Bride,” which Burton is producing, features stop-motion animation like that of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and Burton impressed by Pettler’s draft.

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