Wonka: Release, cast, plot as reviews praise Timothée Chalamet prequel

Timothee Chalamet will play the chocolate factory owner in a new prequel

Timothée Chalamet in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)
Timothée Chalamet in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)

Fans of the Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be wanting to grab their golden tickets once more with the release of Warner Bros. blockbuster Wonka.

Following in the footsteps of the 1971 classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and the 2005 adaptation with the same name as the novel, the new film will explore the early years of the eccentric chocolatier.

Warner Bros. first acquired the rights to Willy Wonka himself back in 2016, with initial production negotiations beginning in 2018.

Read more: Why is Warner Bros. making a Willy Wonka prequel?

Here’s everything we know about Wonka so far.

When is Wonka in cinemas?

Wonka is coming to cinemas on Friday, 8 December.

The film was initially scheduled for release in March 2023, but was pushed back through adjustments to the Warner Bros. 2022/2023 film slate.

What do film critics think of Wonka?

Reviews for Wonka are largely positive, with the film currently enjoying an 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 60 reviews.

Roxy Simons of Yahoo UK said: "Paul King has created a whimsical prequel that has a delightful story and soundtrack, and is as charming as Gene Wilder's original — if not more so."

Wonka first reactions

Timothée Chalamet with director Paul King on the set of Wonka. (Warner Bros.)
Timothée Chalamet with director Paul King on the set of Wonka. (Warner Bros.)

Pop a bottle of fizzy lifting drink because the first reactions for Wonka have floated online and they sound sweeter than chocolate.

Following a handful of preview screenings in both the USA and the UK, representatives from various movie outlets have started to share their thoughts on the film, with many praising Chalamet's performance as the fictional famed chocolatier.

The Wrap's Drew Taylor called it "dazzling and emotionally rich," with Jake Hamilton of the Reel Blend podcast saying it is a "pretty spectacular musical" and a "loving tribute to everything we love about the '71 original."

Meanwhile, Film Speak's Griffin Schiller called it the "family event of the holiday season" and film critic Rosa Parra labelling Chalamet as "one of the greatest up and coming actors".

Wonka trailer

October gave us a second sweet look at cinema's latest take on Willy Wonka, with Hugh Grant's mischievous Oompa Loompa once again stealing the show after popping up briefly in the film's first teaser.

We also get a better idea of the adventure waiting for Wonka, one that'll see this young chocolatier go from a nobody to a confectionary king while encountering a colourful cast of characters.

Watch it below:

Meanwhile, the first trailer for King's new take on Dahl's classic kids' book arrived in early July 2023 and invited us into a cheery, chocolate-box world where we meet the young boy who will one day become the owner of a magical sweet factory.

Packed with heart, charm and plenty of British stars, this first collection of clips teased something very much within the same vein as Paddington, the adaptation also penned by King and his co-writer Simon Farnaby.

However, it was Grant's reluctantly-dancing Oompa Loompa who stole the show in the trailer's final moments.

Wonka cast

Timothee Chalamet in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)
Timothee Chalamet in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)

Bones and All and Call Me By Your Name star Timothée Chalamet will appear in the titular role shortly before he returns to the deserts of Arrakis for Dune: Part Two in March 2024. He was announced to play Willy Wonka in 2021.

In an interview with People, director Paul King said of the actor: "I think what's so remarkable about his performance is not only that he is funny and mischievous and quite mysterious, as well — just like the Willy Wonka that people will know — but also, he brings such heart to the role and he's a brilliant actor."

The famous chocolate maker was previously played by the late Gene Wilder, in the beloved 1971 original film, and Johnny Depp, in the 2005 remake.

Matt Lucas, Keegan-Michael Key and Paterson Joseph all star in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)
Matt Lucas, Keegan-Michael Key and Paterson Joseph all star in Wonka. (Warner Bros.) (Warner Bros.)

Peep Show actor Paterson Joseph is also set to star as Arthur Slugworth, one of Wonka’s rival chocolatiers. Meanwhile, The Shape of Water's Sally Hawkins will play Wonka's mother, Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson will play Father Julius, as revealed during CinemaCon 2023, Grant will appear as an Oompa-Loompa.

There are plenty of other cast members slated to star in Wonka, with some of their roles known and others remaining a mystery.

The Favourite Oscar-winner Olivia Colman is billed as Mrs. Scrubbit, someone initially sceptical of Wonka's talents, with Matt Lucas playing the snooty Prodnose and Keegan-Michael Key playing the local Chief of Police.

Wonka (Warner Bros.)
Olivia Colman will play Mrs. Scrubbit in Wonka. (Warner Bros.) (Warner Bros.)

Relative newcomer Calah Lane can be glimpsed singing and accompanying Wonka in both trailers as Noodle, hinting at a potentially substantial role in his journey to the top.

The Mighty Boosh star Rich Fulcher will play the brilliantly-named Larry Chucklesworth, Downton Abbey's Jim Carter will appear as Abacus Crunch, Murder in Succesville's Tom Davies will play Bleacher and Natasha Rothwell will play Piper Benz.

Ghosts' Simon Farnaby, Ghost Stories' Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Stath Lets Flats' Ellie White, Wednesday's Murray McArthur and Doctor Who actor Tracy Ifeachor will also star in as-yet-undisclosed roles alongside comedian Isy Suttie, making Wonka an unofficial Peep Show reunion alongside Colman and Joseph.

Wonka director and writers

Timothee Chalamet in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)
Timothee Chalamet in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)

Wonka is set to be directed by Paul King, who has previously worked on films including Paddington and its 2017 sequel, and Bunny and the Bull.

King was officially announced as the film’s director back in early 2021, alongside the announcement of the film’s new title.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he spoke about Wonka being a spiritual successor to the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, saying: "What I wanted this movie to be was like a companion piece to that movie. If you imagine those people in that world 25 years earlier, that was my starting process. Eventually, he would grow into that person and that factory."

Read more: Roald Dahl hated Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

During an exclusive interview with Yahoo Movies UK, King shed a little more light onto Grant's Oompa Loompas, specifically describing them as "gleefully naughty."

"The Oompa Loompas are such brilliant characters in the book, you love them so much especially if you're a child reading it," King told us.

Willy's Wonka bars have a whole new look. (Warner Bros.)
Willy's Wonka bars have a whole new look. (Warner Bros.) (Warner Bros.)

"They’re so funny and they're so naughty, and they're so mean but in a very funny way, and they say all the things that nobody can say about these kids except under their breath.

"I think they’re so gleefully naughty and I think that naughtiness is very Roald Dahl, and I think it's also what Hugh does so brilliantly."

Timothee Chalamet and Hugh Grant in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)
Timothee Chalamet and Hugh Grant in Wonka. (Warner Bros.)

Having worked with Grant in Paddington 2, King knew what to expect: "It's hard to get a straight sincere sentence from him, there's normally a deeply inappropriate joke in the end of it but that just felt very Oompa Loompa-y.

"I obviously loved him in Paddington but this is another side to him entirely and it’s great, he looks great in orange as well."

The screenplay has been co-written by both King and Simon Farnaby, who is known for his work on Horrible Histories and Paddington 2.

The production team includes David Heyman, Luke Kelly, and Alexandra Derbyshire.

Wonka filming locations

LYME REGIS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Timothée Chalamet is seen as Willy Wonka with director Paul King during filming for the Warner Bros and the Roald Dahl Story Company's upcoming movie 'Wonka' on October 12, 2021, in Lyme Regis, England. This film will focus on the young Willy Wonka on his earliest adventure and how he met the Oompa-Loompas. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka with director Paul King during filming on Wonka in October 2021. (Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images) (Finnbarr Webster via Getty Images)

Filming took for Wonka place across England and Utah in the US. In early 2022, Chalamet was spotted on set at Verulamium Park in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which had been transformed into a wintry landscape with the help of fake snow.

Other UK locations have included Bath, Lyme Regis, Mapledurham and Wendover Airport, as well as the Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden, near Watford.

Wonka plot

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory Year : 1971- USA Director : Mel Stuart Gene Wilder
Gene Wilder with the Oompa Loompas in 1971's Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. (Alamy) (Wolper Pictures Ltd, Photo 12)

It has been revealed that Wonka will act as a prequel to the original 1964 novel, following a younger version of Willy Wonka in the days before he set up his infamous chocolate factory.

According to the film's official synopsis, audiences will "introduce audiences to a young Willy Wonka, chock-full of ideas and determined to change the world one delectable bite at a time – proving that the best things in life begin with a dream, and if you’re lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible."

This is certainly backed up in the film's first trailer, where we see a wide-eyed, wonderfully optimistic Wonka returning from years of travel and ready to set his sights on building the world's best chocolate factory.

Specific plot details are as yet unknown, but it has been announced that Wonka will be a musical adaptation. In an interview with British Vogue, Chalamet revealed that he has seven musical numbers throughout the film, citing them as an “escape” to everyday life.

Jordan Fry, Adam Godley & Johnny Depp Film: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (USA/UK/AUS 2005) Characters: Mike Teavee,Mr. Teavee & Willy Wonka  Director: Tim Burton 10 July 2005   **WARNING** This Photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of WARNER BROS. and/or the Photographer assigned by the Film or Production Company and can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit To WARNER BROS. is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known. No commercial use can be granted without written authority from
Jordan Fry, Adam Godley and Johnny Depp in 2005's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. (Alamy) (Cinematic Collection)

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Speaking to ScreenRant in early 2022, star Natasha Rothwell said: “I can't give away anything. I feel like I signed everything away to do it. But I had so much fun. I literally got back a few weeks ago from shooting in London. I was there for five months and I just think audiences are going to enjoy it."

The current IMDB synopsis for Wonka reads as follows:

“The story will focus specifically on a young Willy Wonka and how he met the Oompa-Loompas on one of his earliest adventures.”

Wonka is coming to cinemas on 8 December.