Watch: The first trailer for Wonka is here
The film, which comes out on 15 December, tells the origin story of the reclusive chocolate maker Willy Wonka who appears in Roald Dahl's iconic children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Timothée Chalamet playing the title role.
Its first trailer was revealed on Tuesday, 11 July, and the Paddington filmmaker shared insight into some of its key moments, including the final scene which sees Chalamet's Wonka capture the Oompa Loompa who had been following him.
King admits it was "very wonderful" when he persuaded Grant to portray the orange-skinned green-haired being that becomes a staple part of Wonka's chocolate factory in Dahl's novel, and was first envisioned onscreen in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
"The Oompa Loompas are such brilliant characters in the book, you love them so much especially if you're a child reading it," King says.
"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."
Paul King teases Hugh Grant's Oompa Loompa
Grant, King says, has a "great deal of twinkle in his eye" which brings to mind the snarky humour of the Oompa Loompas, and once he put the two together and read Dahl's book with the actor in mind it seemed like the perfect casting.
"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," he says.
"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."
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Though the trailer shows CGI has been used to make Grant smaller, the actor is dressed in clothes that were "made at scale" for the purposes of the film so he looked similar to the 1971 vision of the characters.
His character, King reveals, is introduced to Wonka as a way to show that if Wonka says something ludicrous it is likely to be true, just like in Dahl's book.
The Oompa Loompa is following Wonka in order to steal his chocolate, and when everyone dismisses Wonka's fears he takes matters into his own hands by capturing the being by himself.
The teaser ends with Grant preparing to break into song, the Oompa Loompa song from the 1971 musical to be exact, which Wonka often pays homage to.
Of Grant's musical number, King jokes: "He sings and dances multiple times, that’s only right. I don’t think that’s giving anything away, Oompa Loompa’s must sing and dance in a Willy Wonka movie, that's the law.
"Otherwise there would be riots, and rightly so, I would apologise to the nation."
"I would like to work with Hugh on everything I ever do for the rest of my life," King goes on. "He’s a total absolute joy to spend time with and so funny."
Timothée Chalamet's Wonka will be different to Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp
King's film explores how Wonka came to become the man we know from Dahl's book, and the trailer shows him arriving in a town known as the chocolate capital of the world.
Wonka wants to make his mark and achieve his dream for his mother, played by Sally Hawkins, but he has to face the triumvirate that dominate the industry, known as The Chocolate Cartel, in order to do so.
"Because we're dealing with a time of Willy’s life that we haven't seen before in any of the movies, there was licence to explore who he is now that then becomes this slightly more damaged, withdrawn, reclusive soul later," King says of his take on the character.
"But when we meet him he’s wide-eyed, hugely enthusiastic about the world and thinks it's going to be great and wonderful, and easy, and this is the journey of how he begins to change."
King's hopes to make Wonka a spiritual successor (or predecessor) to the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder, and the songs Pure Imagination and Oompa Loompa feature in his film too, but what was important was that Chalamet could interpret Wonka how he wanted to.
"I think as a performance it is very different from Gene Wilder," King says.
"Gene Wilder is so uniquely Gene Wilder it would impossible to do, and it would certainly be impossible for Timmy to do because he's not an impressionist like that. I think he's a very pure actor, he digs into his personal emotions and feelings.
"He’s quite extraordinary in how he occupies an emotional space and at the same time is a super professional actor... [he has] an unbelievable combination of skills that took my breath away daily."
King adds, "I think what he does bring to the role is some of the warmth and kindness that is more present in the Gene Wilder version than the Tim Burton version [which stars Johnny Depp], which is much more the unknowable side of Willy Wonka.
"But he's all of these things and I think that's what's so great about the character, that he is mysterious and you're not quite sure who he is and you're not quite sure whether he's telling the truth, and you're not quite sure whether he's sane or mad."
Olivia Colman plays the 'most evil person' in Wonka's life
Another character shown in the film's trailer is Olivia Colman's Mrs Scrubitt, who King describes as "the most evil person" and one of his favourite characters he created for the prequel.
"She plays this brilliant character, well I think she's brilliant but that feels like I'm blowing my own trumpet, she's this evil wash house owner and she's just brutal and utterly cruel," he reveals.
"She's got this relationship with her underling/sidekick, played by Tom Davis, named Bleacher, and they are these evil, horrible Dickensian slave-driving [characters], I mean the most revolting people I could imagine.
"And the glee she had playing with it was absolutely fantastic and she's brilliant, gosh she's a joy."
Wonka will have Paddington vibes
King is of course best known for his wonderful, whimsical Paddington films, and the filmmaker says that while Wonka was more about channeling Dahl he feels it's inevitable that it will share some similarities to his earlier work.
"My approach was to try and walk in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, which is terrifying and intimidating because he was pretty good at writing stories for children, and everyone in fact," King reflects.
"I started out by just reading everything that he wrote... and he just had such an extraordinary imagination, so that takes you and grips you, and they’re utterly unputdownable and so I think I was more trying to [ask] 'what was the story that would fit within that universe?'"
"So that was an amazing playground to be in and to work in, but I suppose it inevitably is filtered through me and Simon Farnaby's brains, and we probably do bring a bit of Paddington to it too, but that's just us."
Reflecting on the Paddington films' legacy, which has seen it be immortalised in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, King said he hopes Wonka will do the same.
"It is very odd to me that Paddington has found a life beyond the release, it's incredibly rectifying and it's so lovely that people still watch it and enjoy it, and it means a huge amount," he says.
"So I was very, very happy with that and I hope this works as well, [but] I'm terrified."
Wonka will be released in cinemas on 15 December, 2023.