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Willy Wonka Prequel - What We Know So Far

The wacky world of fiction's weirdest candyman is about to get a little bit wilder as Warner Bros. Pictures goes full psychedelic ferry steam ahead with a Willy Wonka prequel film.

Indeed, after years of speculation and false starts, Warner Bros. brass has finally made the Wonka prequel official. Per a recent report from Variety, the studio — who also produced the last Wonka-centric flick in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) — announced via press release that the new film is in the early stages of production, and will look to head before cameras later this year.

As mentioned, the Warner team has been trying to get this prequel (tentatively titled Wonka) off the ground for a few years now, and even bandied about names like Donald Glover and Ryan Gosling for the titular role as recently as 2018. It seems even as those stars have moved on to other projects, the Wonka bug has remained firmly in the minds of studio heads who are no doubt looking to cash in on a potentially lucrative property.

In case you've forgotten, Burton's 2005 film (which featured a go-for-broke turn from a pre-troubles Johnny Depp) earned close to $500 million at the global box office, so it make sense the studio wouldn't want to linger too long before getting back into the Wonka game. That's even more true as the 1971 Willy Wonka film starring the late, great Gene Wilder continues to climb the ranks of cinema classics worthy of being passed down from one generation to the next.

While not much is known about what Warner Bros. has in store for Wonka, details are starting to come fast and furious. Here's everything we know so far about the Willy Wonka prequel.

When will the Willy Wonka prequel be released?

As noted, details are quite slim surrounding the just-announced Willy Wonka prequel flick. But from the press release alone, we know Warner Bros. is now fast-tracking the film and may be looking to wrap up casting in the coming weeks. Perhaps in an effort to ensure the film gets off the ground and into production as soon as possible (and maybe even to help plug release date holes in the wake of the studio's controversial streaming vs. theatrical shake-up), studio masterminds have gone ahead and assigned the film an official release date. 

If you're at all curious about what the man who would be Wonka was like before he became a chocolatier with a taste for the weird, you won't have to wait terribly long to find out, as Wonka will be making its way to theaters on March 17, 2023.

That may be a bit further off than you were expecting, but given the project's current stage of production, not to mention the ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and its impact on the film and television industry, March of 2023 still sort of feels optimistic. Nonetheless, a return to Wonkaland is indeed on the horizon. Here's hoping that release date padding ensures Wonka gets made as safely as possible for everyone involved — and here's hoping that extra time allows the film's creative team to do the source material the justice it deserves.

Who will be in the cast of the Willy Wonka prequel?

Now that we know when Wonka will be headed to theaters, the most obvious question becomes who will step into the iconic shoes of the candyman himself. As previously noted, the likes of Glover and Gosling have almost certainly moved on from the project, with each boasting a full slate of film and TV offerings in the works. And while it's a genuine bummer we won't get to see an actor of Glover's singular skillset sing and dance his way through a psychedelic candyland of pure imagination, it seems Warner bosses are moving on as well. 

But before we go any further, we'll go ahead and put to rest any notion that the last man who played the part of Wonka might reprise the role for the prequel. Given the current state of Johnny Depp's affairs and the actor's now-strained relationship with Warner Bros. in the wake of his Fantastic Beasts departure, there's little-to-no chance he might return for the prequel.

The good news is that Warner Bros. is rumored to be eyeing a pair of big-time young talents to step into the role made famous by Gene Wilder and giddily infamous by Depp. Those talents are none other than Marvel's current Spider-Man Tom Holland, and the upcoming Dune's own Muad'Dib, Timothée Chalamet. And yes, either of those actors could do a fine job filling the shoes of their predecessors. They are both, however, very much in demand at the moment, so Wonka producers will need to be quite aggressive if they hope to book either for the Willy Wonka prequel. 

What will the Willy Wonka prequel be about?

If you're among the many who've seen both Gene Wilder's and Johnny Depp's version of Willy Wonka — or read Roald Dahl's beloved book — you might rightfully guess that the casting decision about the next Wonka likely depends on which version the new film is a prequel to. If it's Depp's and Burton's whimsically unstable weirdo we're following, Chalamet makes a lot of sense, as he's not only a talented actor capable of capturing such oddball pathos, but a pretty solid Depp look-alike. If its Wilder's musically-inclined Wonka that's getting prequelized, Holland makes way more sense — he's not only got the look, but he's more than proven he can handle the song and dance aspects of that Wonka's life.

At present, all we know about the prequel is that the film will follow the early days of Willy Wonka prior to his becoming a confectionary icon and creepy candy recluse. Whether those early days include a maniacal dentist father as in Burton's 2005 film is anybody's guess. But assuming Warner Bros. releases casting notices before detailing Wonka's plot, news of Holland or Chalamet in the lead may be quite telling as to which Wonka the film is about.

The good news is that Warner Bros. brass has tapped some serious talent to bring that story to life, with Inside Out scribe Simon Rich on board to pen the script, and Paddington and Paddington 2 helmer Paul King attached to direct. Rest assured that for now, Wonka is in suitably sweet hands.