From Paddington to Wonka, Paul King reveals the risks and rewards of adapting childhood classics – LSB

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After Paddington 2 received wild praise, including the rare achievement of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, writer/director Paul King had a daunting decision ahead of him. What should I do next?

Whatever it was, it was a tough act to follow, so why not go big by tackling the origin story of Roald Dahl’s most famous character? To call Wonka a risky move would be a huge understatement, as the internet predictably met the project’s promotions with anger and derision. But when Mashable spoke with King just days before his new film hits theaters, he was filled with infectious excitement as he discussed how this sweet yet daring prequel starring Timothée Chalamet came to be.

“Obviously the answer to Paddington 2 it was very wonderful,” King said. “Where do I go next? I really wasn’t sure.” Then producer David Heyman pitched the concept of Wonka’s origin to King and his writing partner Simon Farnaby.

“It felt like a really good fit for my passions,” King shares. “I knew Charlie and the chocolate factory like a child. I’ve read the book cover to cover a million times and loved the ’71 movie [Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder] like a child.”


‘Wonka’ review: Can Timothée Chalamet win over the haters?

Still, a pang of reluctance hit him. “I was a little nervous because origin stories don’t always feel substantial,” King admitted, “and I knew it was such a beloved property.”

Despite the risks, the director’s enthusiasm pushed him forward as he delved into Dahl again. “I had remembered Willy Wonka and the factory and the Oompa Loompas and all the colorful characters, but somehow I had forgotten what a beautiful emotional story it was. You follow this poor, young, suffering child. finally when Willy gave him the factory I was just in tears. I had really forgotten that aspect of the book.”

Revisiting Dahl’s book and the Wilder film revealed to King what he perceived Wonka may have something to do with attractive Paddington and its adored sequel. “I thought, ‘Oh, this it’s got larger-than-life comedy, a bit of fantasy, surreal elements that I love — and a deep beating heart,” reflected King. “That’s what I’m trying to do all the way through Paddington movies. And I realized that probably came from reading Dahl as a child.” From then on, he was eager to “play in [Dahl’s] playground.”

Wonka pulls from more than Dahl’s Charlie and the chocolate factory.

Paul King directs Olivia Colman "Wonka."

Paul King directs Olivia Colman in Wonka.
Credit: Warner Bros.

In reverse engineering a Willy Wonka prequel, King starts with, of course, the 1964 children’s book. Charlie and the chocolate factory. “There are a lot of clues there,” King said, adding, “[Dahl] he mentioned Slugworth and Ficklegruber and Prodnose and how there were spies and how they conspired against him.

From there, King dreamed up the chocolate cartel, which he played as Wonkacentral antagonist of – with a hint of Fantastic Mr. Fox. “I thought, ‘Oh, you could do something like Boggis, Buns and Bean, [a] three-headed monster villain,” King recalls, before dropping another Dahl inspiration for the snarling Scrubbit, a creepy landlady played by Oscar winner Olivia Colman. “I was really reading all of Dahl and just trying to channel him, and there’s a great story that he wrote called “The Mistress”, about someone who captures people and keeps them in his basement. This is absolutely terrifying. It’s a story for adults rather than children.”

Enter Olivia Colman, Tom Davies and Timothée Chalamet "Wonka."

Olivia Colman, Tom Davies and Timothée Chalamet in Wonka.
Credit: Warner Bros.

But this maturely menacing concept coincided with a joke from the ’71 film involving some clever fine print. “I liked the idea of ​​using [‘The Landlady’] and the idea of ​​the fine print from the Willy Wonka movie—just diving into that world and putting it together.”

Growing up with Wilder’s version of Willy Wonka, King wanted to connect the two through visual cues and the script. His Wonka draws inspiration from the Mel Stuart film, such as the look of the Oompa Loompas and parts of the costume – including the top hat and velvet coat of the eponymous character. Plus, King worked with Chalamet to weave in parts of the choreography that mirrored Wilder’s gait and the “yellow with the cane” from the first film. “This thing is too good not to use,” King explained.

Sometimes recreating this world of wonder that impressed him as a child becomes unreal. “For me, it was part of the pitch where you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do a Pure Imagination song and an Oompa Loompa song.’ Great!” Some of the best times were when we had this huge orchestra at Abbey Road and everyone was [playing the Oompa Loompa theme] bop bop bop bop. And I get paid for it! This is great.”

how Wonka compare with Paddington and Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

Paul King on set "Wonka."

Paul King on the set of “Wonka”.
Credit: Warner Bros.

Both films center on a no-nonsense dreamer who rolls into a metropolis that is a little wary of the newcomer. But despite being populated by strange characters, the worlds themselves seem very different to King.

“Paddington lives in a very warm, fuzzy world where there are the odd rotten eggs, but most people are basically kind, decent and generous. It’s a very positive view of humanity,” King said. “Dahl’s universe is extremely different. Most people are absolutely disgusting, horrible, selfish pigs. And it’s great fun to write. It felt like a good point for me, because [in Dahl’s work] everyone is an unredeemed horror, except for the occasional kind of shining soul.”

Brave and determined, Paddington and Wonka are persistent rebels against cynicism, so their films have a common thematic line. This battle for sincerity and empathy spoke to King, who noted personal inspiration from classic Hollywood. “I’m a big fan of Frank Capra and he directed the definitive ‘little man in a big cynical world’ movies like Mr. Smith goes to Washington” said the English aide, referring to the political drama with Jimmy Stewart about every man who becomes a senator. Although Mr. Smith has been designed by a corrupt group of politicians to be little more than a nodding puppet, this congressional newcomer is fighting for which is correct until he literally collapses.

“I must have seen it about 100 times,” King said of the 1939 film. “It really touched my heart. This inspired him to make young Wonka an outsider. “Willy Wonka is not someone who agrees with the world as it is,” King reasoned. “He’s a dreamer and an inventor. And he’s an engine of change.”

A crucial clue to Wonka’s inner workings was found in the most memorable song from the 1971 film. There’s nothing to it.” King explained, “Ten syllables and it’s deeper than most people’s life’s work.” That cool determination brought him back to Capra’s character.

“I was really interested in the idea of ​​taking this Mr. Smith-type character coming to this town [Smith] goes to Washington and assumes that people are kind and decent and good — that if you go with an open heart, the world will get better,” King said, “but obviously [Wonka] finds it to be a more cynical and Dahl-like universe than he imagined. And then he must somehow summon the spirit of courage to say, “Well, I am I will have to change the world.

“These people who do this are few and far between,” King concluded, “and God bless each and every one of them.”

Wonka hits theaters December 15.

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