Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Tim Burton

Like every Tim Burton's film, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is bigger in scope, size, and imagination than the producers had anticipated of his remake of the 1971 cult film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

The new film enjoys the complete collaboration of Felicity Dahl, the wife of writer Roald Dahl and the caretaker of his estate since his death, in 1990. Felicity acknowledges the scale of Burton' undertaking: “An adaptation like this is daunting, because I don't think there's a child in this world who hasn't read the story or knows about it. Every child wants to be Charlie.”

Originally published in 1964, the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” has sold over 13 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 32 different languages. Its enduring popularity indicates just how well Dahl understood, appreciated, and communicated with children.

Burton is the perfect director for such material, having made “Edward Scissorhands,” also with Johnny Depp, and produced the 1996 animated fantasy adventure, “James and the Giant Peach,” which was adapted from another book by Dahl. When you look at Burton's body of work, there are running themes of intelligence and whimsy that are perfectly suited for the sensibility of Dahl's stories.

The Meaning of Dahl's Book

One of the interesting aspects of the book is that it's so vivid in mood and feeling, and so specific, yet it still leaves room for interpretation. The book left room for my own imagination, which, I think, is one of Dahl's strengths as a storyteller. That's why you can revisit this book at any time, and get different things from it no matter what your age.

Children and Adults as the Book's Readers

Some adults forget what it was like to be a kid. Roald did not. So you have characters that remind you of people in your own life ad kids you went to school with, but at the same time, it harkens back to age-old archetypes of mythology and fairy tales. It's a mix of emotion and humor and adventure that's absolutely timeless. I think that's why it stays with you. Roald remembers vividly what it was like to be that age, but he also layers his work with an adult perspective.

Visiting Dahl's House

During pre-production, I visited Dahl's home and looked inside the spare, unheated workroom where Roald did all his writing. Away from the noise and bustle of the house, it was his private no-frills sanctuary. I was amazed to realize how closely Roald's designs for Charlie Bucket's ramshackle house resembled this structure. Felicity confirmed that it was very likely the inspiration for the Bucket home.

I was moved by the experience. It made me feel like we were definitely on the same wavelength. It was uncanny how similar the two structures were. Roald even used rolled-up pieces of cardboard to prop together a makeshift desk for himself. I never had an opportunity to meet the man, but just through the work I feel some kind of connection to him.

Changes from the Book

The book allows room for possibility and the reader's interpretation. John August (the screenwriter) and I felt the film needed to provide some framework in the case of Wonka's eccentricity, to offer some possibility of why he is the way he is, without delving too deeply into it. We speculate as to why is he behaving this way and what's behind it.

Working with Johnny Depp

Burton has enjoyed a most fruitful collaboration with Johnny Depp, who has starred in five of his films: Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and they are finishing up, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, the stop-motion animated feature to be release later this year.

Johnny is a great character actor in the form of a leading man. That's what struck me about him from the very beginning, and that's what makes him such an intriguing actor, the fact that he's not necessarily interested in his image, but more in becoming a character and trying different things. He's willing to take risks. Each time I work with Johnny he's something different.

Casting David Kelly as Charlie's Grandfather

When David Kelly (of “Waking Ned Devine” fame) walked in, that was it. He was Grandpa Joe. What an amazing actor, and what a deeply expressive face, like a silent movie character.

Helena Bonham Carter and Noah Taylor as Charlie's Parents

Helena Bonham Carter, Burton's real-life companion and mother of his child, had appeared in Burton's remake of “Planet of the Apes.”

Both Helena and Noah shine in relatively small roles and bring warmth and credibility to Charlie's family unit. The house and their living conditions are so extreme, almost surreal, that without the right actors, it just wouldn't have worked. We were lucky to have Helena and Noah, who truly made it feel like a real family.

Deep Roy as Oompa-Loompa

Deep Roy is the hardest-working man in show business. He took on the daunting task of starring as an entire community of Oompa-Loompas. Rescued by Willy Wonka from their harsh life in distant Loompaland, they now cheerfully live and work inside its walls, and feast on their favorite food: cocoa beans.

Designing Wonka's Chocolate Factory

In creating the landscape of Wonka's world, the textural, visceral quality of Dahl's images and the scope, I tried to keep as true to the book as possible, specific places like the nut room and the TV room. Still, there is a lot of room for interpretation, which is the wonderful thing about doing an adaptation like this. Each room in the film has its own flavor and possibilities.

Instead of relying too much on blue or green screen effects, we tried to build as much of the settings as possible. We built most of the sets at 360 degrees so that the actors are really enveloped in the environment.

Burton credits Special Effects Supervisor, Joss Williams, whose previous collaboration with Burton, “Sleepy Hollow,” earned him a BAFTA nomination, and Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Davis, an AFI and BAFTA nominee for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” for overseeing the integration of advanced motion picture technology and CGI for anything that could not be achieved practically on set.

That said, it all began with Burton, who kept producing drawings for the team. As Burton himself recalls: “When we worked on the chocolate river, I told Joss Williams, Make it look good enough to eat, make it look as yummy as possible.