Warner Bros. is returning to a world of pure imagination, forging ahead with plans for a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” prequel, newly titled “Wonka.”
The project has been in development for years, but recently started to pick up steam again. The studio hopes to begin casting the film soon, with the goal of releasing it theatrically on March 17, 2023.
David Heyman, whose resume includes the “Harry Potter” franchise and “Paddington,” is producing the film, based on a script by Simon Rich. They have both been attached to the movie since 2016. Rich previously worked as a writer on “Saturday Night Live” and penned Seth Rogen’s latest pic, “An American Pickle,” which was based on Rich’s New Yorker short story titled “Sell Out.” Paul King, who directed “Paddington” and its sequel, will helm the reboot. Simon Farnaby co-wrote the script.
Based on Roald Dahl’s popular children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the story follows a poor boy named Charlie, who is one of five youngsters to win a golden ticket to tour the world-renowned, yet highly secretive, chocolate factory run by Willy Wonka. Gene Wilder memorably played the character in 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Johnny Depp later portrayed the famed chocolatier in the Tim Burton-directed 2005 reboot, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Depp’s version of the impish character was slightly darker than Wilder’s and heavily portrayed Wonka as an oddball recluse with a particular distaste for kids and by extension, familial bonds. Burton’s version was a commercial success, grossing $475 million at the worldwide box office.
Plot details for “Wonka” have been kept heavily under wraps, though the upcoming adaptation will center on Willy Wonka’s earlier days prior to operating his elaborate house of confectionary creations. In Burton’s retelling, Wonka’s father was a dentist who loathed sugary treats of any kind, though it’s unclear if that’s canon. It’s also uncertain if any other familiar characters, such as the hardworking Oompa Loompas who later keep his sweet-filled factory running, will make an appearance in the movie.
There’s a healthy amount of content currently in the works that centers on the curious and eccentric candyman. Netflix has two animated series in development based on the candy-coated world popularized by Mr. Wonka. Taika Waititi, who directed “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Jojo Rabbit” and the upcoming “Thor: Love and Thunder,” is writing, directing and executive producing both Netflix projects.