Hugh Grant Hopes Kids Enjoy ‘Wonka’ After ‘Paddington 2’ Trauma

Hugh Grant Hopes Kids Enjoy ‘Wonka’ After ‘Paddington 2’ Trauma: Hugh Grant never envisioned himself as Charlie Bucket, the virtuous hero of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” “What’s the spoiled girl called?” he says, taking a moment to reflect. “I identified with Veruca Salt.”

At 63, Grant maintains his deadpan humor while promoting his movie musical “Wonka” (in theaters Friday), a heartwarming prequel to Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Timothée Chalamet takes on the role of the young and ambitious chocolatier, succeeding previous big-screen Wonkas portrayed by Gene Wilder (in the 1971 original) and Johnny Depp (in the 2005 remake).

In the latest movie, Grant takes on a brief yet attention-grabbing part as an Oompa Loompa, the initial among the orange-skinned, green-haired assistants who join Wonka in his candy factory. Grant’s Oompa Loompa is introduced midway through the film, clandestinely pilfering chocolate from Wonka’s bedroom. Later, he assists Wonka in battling candy-hoarding mafiosos and performs updated versions of the traditional Oompa Loompa songs.

“Wonka” marks the reunion of Grant and director Paul King, following the actor’s acclaimed performance as the tap-dancing con artist Phoenix Buchanan in the beloved 2018 film, “Paddington 2.” King was certain he wanted Grant for the role of an Oompa Loompa even before penning the script.

“The Oompa Loompas don’t really have any dialogue in the (other) movies, but in the book, they have these pages-long poems that are so witty but sardonic,” King explains. “They’re cruel in that wickedly funny Roald Dahl way. So I was reading them over and over, and Hugh’s voice just played in my head. I love Hugh, and I loved working with him on ‘Paddington 2,’ so it was just too good to resist.”

Your co-star in “Wonka,” Olivia Colman, recently described Timothée as lovely and gentle, comparing him to “a human Paddington.” Do you share the same sentiment?

I believe Paul King embodies the true spirit of Paddington. Timothée Chalamet, on the other hand, appears more intricate. Having sat beside him in numerous interviews, he comes across as a mysterious individual. While he may come off as pleasant, there’s also a hint of potential mystery or even mischief.

Was it an immediate “yes” when Paul approached you about playing an Oompa Loompa?

Certainly. It was almost an instantaneous decision. I enjoy collaborating with Paul and his co-screenwriter, Simon Farnaby, who also has a role in the movie and is a highly amusing actor. We have a great time bouncing ideas around in the realm of comedy. I find working on Paul’s films to be quite enjoyable, and that’s saying something, considering my usual dislike for my work.

Considering that your character is largely computer-generated, were there any instances where you had the opportunity to shoot scenes with Timothée in person?

these processes are entirely separate—different times and locations. However, we experimented with a hybrid approach, where I was on set in a small tent nearby so we could communicate. During breaks, we connected over gossipy conversations about Hollywood personalities.

You mentioned to Seth Meyers that your children didn’t enjoy “Paddington 2.” Could you share why that was the case?

They were quite disturbed by it—traumatized, to be honest. They consistently turned to me, asking, “Why are you in it so much?” I believe they felt embarrassed. However, as they grew older, today, on our way to school, they were nudging me and pointing to advertisements of me (in “Wonka”) on the sides of buses.

Have your children watched “Wonka” yet?

They’ll be watching it next week. However, if they don’t enjoy it and fail to shower me with compliments about how fantastic I am, they’re well aware of the consequences—I won’t be feeding them. They understand the rules.

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