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The Only Main Actors Still Alive From 1971's Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

In recent years, filmmakers like Tim Burton and Paul King have produced their own twists and takes on Roald Dahl's classic character Willy Wonka ... but for many people, the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder as the enigmatic (and occasionally terrifying) chocolate-maker is the only worthwhile adaptation. Directed by Mel Stuart with a screenplay by Dahl himself, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" is pretty loyal to the source material — aside from the title change, as the novel is called "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" — and follows young Charlie Bucket, who finds one of Wonka's "golden tickets" in a chocolate bar and is whisked away to the mysterious candy factory with a handful of other children. From there, they end up competing for the factory itself ... but none of them know that at the outset.

Sadly, Wilder is no longer with us — the beloved comedy legend passed away in 2016 — and many of the older actors from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," including Jack Albertson (who played Charlie's beloved Grandpa Joe) have died since the film's release. So which actors from the classic children's film are still alive, and what have they been doing since the movie's 1971 release?

Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket)

As Charlie Bucket, young Peter Ostrum carried a lot of responsibility as the lead character of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," and he did a pretty spectacular job considering he was just 12 years old when he made the movie. At the start of the film, Charlie and the Bucket family are desperately poor; all four of his grandparents sleep in one bed, and both of Charlie's parents work constantly to try and support both their child and their elderly parents. This all changes when Charlie finds a golden ticket in a Wonka bar that he can only buy after he finds money in the street; as the final ticketholder, he joins four other children and their adult escorts for what sounds like a simple tour of the factory. As Charlie and his other winners find out, though, Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka is trying to determine which of the children is purest of heart, and unlike the others, Charlie withstands every test until Wonka reveals that Charlie will inherit the factory when Wonka decides to retire ... effectively solving the Bucket family's financial woes.

Despite Ostrum's excellent performance in the film, he elected never to act again and even turned down a deal for three movies after "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" came out. Instead, Ostrum went to school to learn how to be a veterinarian; these days, he's retired after running his own practice, but along with his other former castmates, he looks back on the film fairly fondly and was excited for the "Wonka" reboot featuring Timothée Chalamet in 2023.

Michael Böllner (Augustus Gloop)

Since Charlie Bucket is the protagonist of "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory," the other young winners of the golden ticket giveaway don't fare quite as well as he does ... and it all begins with Augustus Gloop, played by Michael Böllner. The first to fall victim to the tempting traps laid by Willy Wonka, Augustus is a gluttonous boy from Dusselheim, West Germany (a fictional hometown) whose habit of overeating is his main character trait. (It should be said that the "Willy Wonka" franchise isn't particularly kind to its plus-size characters, and Augustus is no exception, though he's not quite as grotesque in the 1971 movie and is at least polite enough to the other children.) When the tour takes a ride down a chocolate river, Augustus can't resist trying to eat the "water" and falls in, only to be sucked up by a pipe and trapped in the factory's "Fudge Room." 

Böllner, who hails from Munich, didn't speak much English when he shot the movie, but still had a great time — and he regularly makes appearances at events to celebrate the film. He works as an accountant and hasn't acted since playing Augustus Gloop, but has fond memories of it; as he told the Associated Press in 2018 (via local Baltimore station WBALTV), "A very, very nice experience, very strange, different unknown worlds, because everybody was speaking English and I was very, very I had very low language, no knowledge of the language at this time."

Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt)

Sadly, Denise Nickerson, who played the obsessive gum-chewer Violet Beauregarde in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" — who test-drives Wonka's new gum and is turned into a human blueberry as a result — passed away in 2019, making Julie Anne Cole the only living female member of the original group of children. In the film, Cole plays Veruca Salt, a spoiled and petulant child who's also fascinated by the candy factory, but she's also intensely demanding — to the point where it's revealed that her father forced his own employees to rifle through chocolate bars until they found her a golden ticket. Ultimately, this quality that causes a huge problem in a room full of geese that lay golden chocolate eggs and determine the "good eggs" from the "bad eggs." Veruca wants a goose and demands that her father purchase one, an offer that Wonka declines; eventually, the geese turn on Veruca herself and decide she's a "bad egg," sending her and her parents alike down the factory's garbage chute. (In the book and other adaptations, the animals in question aren't geese but squirrels, sorting the "good nuts" and "bad nuts.")

Unlike many of the other young actors in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," Cole continued working in the industry after playing Veruca for years; immediately afterwards, she booked a role on the British sitcom "...And Mother Makes Three." Throughout the years, Cole has appeared in projects like "The Mill on the Floss" and "EastEnders," and in 2016 she released a memoir about playing Veruca, appropriately titled "I Want It Now!"

Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee)

The final child to be eliminated from Wonka's admittedly bonkers competition is Mike Teevee (whose last name in the book and other adaptations is spelled "Teavee," but cuts out the "A" in the 1971 version), played by Paris Themmen. Mike's entire thing, as you may be able to surmise from his last name, is that he watches a ton of television, and he shows up at Wonka's factory dressed like a cowboy to imitate the Western genre. Like Augustus Gloop, Mike isn't necessarily cruel, but definitely irritating — and he gets into trouble when he plays with technology that can transport chocolate bars. When Mike tries it so that he can live inside of the TV, he ends up being shrunk down to the size of a candy bar, requiring the use of a stretching machine to get back to his normal size later on.

After playing Mike Teevee, Themmen appeared in one episode of "Star Trek: Voyager" in 2000, and based on the content of his own website, he still manages to find ways to make a profit off of his work in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." In 2018, he played a round of "Jeopardy!" and finished in second place.

Rusty Goffe (Oompa-Loompa)

A handful of different actors portrayed the Oompa Loompas in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" — and among them, Rusty Goffe is one of the only that's still alive and working today. Clad in the green wigs and orange makeup that would characterize the Oompa Loompas going forward — Hugh Grant's sole Oompa Loompa in 2023's "Wonka" looks strikingly like the ones in the 1971 film — Goffe and his fellow actors sing songs explaining each child's folly after they're eliminated from the competition, and are otherwise presented as the workers who staffed Wonka's fantastical factory.

Throughout the years, Goffe has played small (and often uncredited) roles in extremely enormous franchises. Six years after playing an Oompa-Loompa, he played a handful of roles in the first "Star Wars" film (titled "A New Hope"), and he appeared in multiple installments of the "Harry Potter" series in assorted parts, showing up in "Philosopher's Stone" (or "Sorcerer's Stone" in the United States), "Prisoner of Azkaban," "Order of the Phoenix," "Half-Blood Prince," and "Deathly Hallows — Part 2." On the small screen, Goffe has appeared in projects like "Little Britain," the series "Stupid!" and a 2014 episode of "Doctor Who."