Gene Wilder’s recent passing led many to revisit one of the legendary performer’s most iconic roles in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and now it appears the eccentric character is getting a new life on the big screen. Per Variety, Warner Bros. has acquired the rights to the Willy Wonka IP from the Roald Dahl estate, and the studio is moving forward on a planned feature film reboot to be steered by Harry Potter and Gravity producer David Heyman.
Instead of simply adapting the Dahl story once again, the idea for this reboot is to explore Wonka’s early adventures, serving as a standalone story that could spawn a new franchise if it proves successful. The report stresses that this is not an origin film, but it is possible that characters like Charlie could appear in future installments should the franchise prove to be a hit.
Dahl’s 1964 novel Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was first adapted into the Gene Wilder feature film in 1971, which went on to become something of a cult classic. Tim Burton tackled the material as a straight adaptation in 2005 with Johnny Depp in tow to decidedly terrible results, offering up a toothless film full of eccentricity simply for the sake of being eccentric. The story also got a stage musical adaptation courtesy of director Sam Mendes in 2003.
Simon Rich, an SNL veteran and novelist who also created and serves as showrunner on the FXX series Man Seeking Woman, has been tapped to pen the script for the Willy Wonka reboot. Rich also has experience with more family friendly fare having been credited with “additional story material by” on Pixar’s Inside Out.
While the idea of a Willy Wonka reboot may certainly provide cause for concern, Heyman’s involvement goes a long way towards alleviating fears of a cash grab. He shepherded the Harry Potter franchise from the very beginning, serving as a key creative voice through the development of each and every film as well as the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and he also produced the delightful Paddington as well as Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful Gravity. He’s got great instincts, so it’ll be interesting to see how Wonka progresses from here.
Dahl wrote two books in which Wonka appeared, but it sounds like the idea of this reboot is to create a new story and franchise around the beloved character. This is no doubt an important film for Warner Bros. as it continues to expand its franchise holds, so hopefully we hear more sooner rather than later.