Queen Elizabeth II is stepping away from public service for a chance at thwarting an incipient chocolatier’s rise to the top, sources close to MovieWeb report. Warner Bros. is reportedly courting The Crown star Olivia Colman to feature in Wonka as the confectioner’s childhood aggressor. The Willy Wonka prequel is presently underway with Timothée Chalamet in the title role. It’s not clear whether the Dune actor is playing the younger version of Gene Wilder’s Wonka or Johnny Depp’s Willy, or whether this story is a fresh adaptation entirely.
Unlike The Crown, which is loosely based on real events, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a magical blend of science and fairytale. Willy Wonka is an eccentric businessman who fancies himself a recluse, like all geniuses tend to be. He has a tremendous sweet tooth and considers himself both a purist and a subversive when it comes to the field of candy production. He fashions chocolates, hard candies, marshmallows, soda, and cotton candy from the most fatuous of concepts, like an all-in-one sucker or a chocolate bird, and mass produces them for a dedicated populace. His headquarters are equally unusual, with a hyperrealistic boat ride, the tallest elevator in existence, and shapeshifting nightmares straight out of Alice in Wonderland, run by dwarfish creatures not found anywhere else. It’s long been implied Wonka uses magic to fund and fuel his confectionery empire, allowing him to accomplish wondrous feats not possible through natural means.
However, despite his celebrity status, Wonka feels doubly misunderstood and trusts no one; he experiences psychotic flashes a.k.a. breaks in sanity, and can be moody, cold, or cantankerous when provoked. Again, like all geniuses are. Most fans of the Roald Dahl classic assume his fallout happened midway in his career, but it could have occurred decades earlier in his teens or childhood, back when he was probably a much agreeable fellow. Could the character The Crown’s Olivia Colman be portraying the monster responsible for turning young Wonka into a paranoid homebody indifferent to human suffering?
The Willy Wonka prequel (potentially starring Olivia Colman from The Crown) will reportedly trace the candymaker’s origins in the 19th century, sometime during the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. A musical fresh out of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, the plot will allegedly revolve around Wonka’s procurement of the Oompa Loompas for his chocolate factory, with most of the film set in the faraway country of Loompaland. For anyone curious, the Oompa Loompas serve as a dated allegory for African slaves imported by white entrepreneurs for work in Europe and parts of North America, and has always carried with it inflections of 19th-century racism. The young Wonka Timothée Chalamet will be playing is still governed by the culture of that era, and will basically be the candy equivalent of the British East India Company.
Now, as it so happens, the monarch Olivia Colman plays in The Crown is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria, the ruling sovereign of that time period, which in some roundabout way, makes her a shoo-in for the movie. But who is she being considered for? Perhaps Wonka’s mother, who disapproves of the young man’s obsession with sweets? Or a stepmother, jealous over her adoptive son’s nascent success? Or a mentor in the art of confectioneries, turned evil after seeing her future competition? The parent of one of Wonka’s later rivals, maybe? To further explain Arthur Slugworth’s insistence on stealing any of Willy Wonka’s recipes. Or a local bureaucrat cracking down on Wonka’s budding ventures? One thing’s for sure, though; it would be just as interesting to see The Crown’s Olivia Colman flex her singing chops as much as watching Timothée Chalamet.
The children’s novels by Roald Dahl left so much open for the character of Willy Wonka that literally any concept could work for a prequel. In Johnny Depp’s version, Wonka has a strained relationship with his father, a dentist, a man so distant from his son he can only identify him from his molars. It certainly opens the narrative for an equally problematic parent figure The Crown’s Olivia Colman could succinctly dig her heels into.
The cast of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory spoke with PEOPLE recently and discussed the upcoming prequel. They’re ecstatic. Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in the 1971 movie, tells Jen Juneau, “As Julie (Veruca Salt) likes to say, ‘There’s room for all of us. We can all play well together in the sandbox.’ And the prequel will shed more light on early Wonka. But again, there’s been so many different versions of Willy Wonka, be it on Broadway, opera, a pinball machine… You can’t kill the Willy Wonka story. So all of it is good. It’s a great story. And people enjoy whatever different version they’re watching; it’s fun to watch. So I think we’re all looking forward to the prequel.”
Wonka stars Timothée Chalamet, with Paddington’s Paul King directing from a screenplay by Simon Farnaby. Harry Potter producer David Heyman is overseeing production. Is The Crown’s Olivia Colman next?