Elizabeth Entenman
November 11, 2015 2:27 pm

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a perfect movie. It’s charming, silly, fun, touching, a tinge musical and 100% fantastical. Oh, and there’s a ton of candy. So when the original cast of kids reunited on the Today show to celebrate the film 44 years after it was released (!), we felt like we won the golden ticket.

In attendance were the five golden ticket winners: Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde) and Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop). They were joined by Rusty Goffe, one of Wonka’s most recognizable Oompa Loompas. The cast members, still friends after all these years, talked all things Wonka.

We were struck by how humble and grateful they are to be part of the Willy Wonka family. How adorable is it that they’re still friends?! “We think of ourselves as a family, maybe a bit of a dysfunctional family, but a family!” said Themmen.

The film was a smash hit, but the cast (save for Goffe and Willy Wonka himself, Gene Wilder) went on to leave the industry shortly thereafter.

“Everybody could be so lucky to have an experience like this and then go in a completely different direction!” said Ostrum, now a veterinarian.

The best part of the interview is when Gene Wilder came up. The golden ticket winners all remarked that he was fantastic to work with, loved entertaining the kids and never tired of them. It’s like he totally “got” that they were part of the magic of the movie, and it shows in their chemistry on screen. He truly treated them like adults — like equals.

“Five kids clambering all over you, wanting his attention,” Cole recalled. “There was never any, ‘Please don’t bother Mr. Wilder.’ And we must have been pretty tiresome.”

Ultimately, being a Wonka kid sounds as wonderful in real life as it does in the book/movie. What’s not to love?

“We are the fortunate ones,” Nickerson said. “We’re here, and we got to really see it and experience it. And the first thing people do when they find out who we are is they smile.”

Watch the full Today segment right here!

(Featured image via Paramount Pictures)

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