gene wilder veruca salt

Gene Wilder has been gone for more than two years now, but for many of us, he lives on in our hearts and on the screen as the beloved Willy Wonka in the original version of Roald Dahl’s classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In an interview with Fox News, the actress who played the spoiled brat Veruca Salt, Julie Dawn Cole, reflected on her experience of filming the classic.

Cole, now 61, told the story of how at 12-years-old, she went off for the three-month shoot without a relative as a chaperone.

“My mom had a job and my sister was in school so it wasn’t an option for her to give up her job,” Cole explained. “She was a single mom and that’s how it was. I was going to have a tutor, someone who was going to be with me 24/7. I met her at the airport for the first time.

“I was away from home for three months with a total stranger,” she continued.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory debuted in 1971.

Reflecting on her first impression of the talented Gene Wilder, Cole said she found a letter she’d written to her mother the day she met him for the first time.

“I said, ‘Today I met Mr. Wilder. And he’s not as tall as you would imagine or I to be. He’s got reddish hair down to his shoulders.’”

She also recalled that he came in wearing the purple velvet coat that is quintessential to Wonka.

Remembering how Gene Wilder handled working with so many child actors, Cole has nothing but high praise.

“He was not a diva. He was not an ego,” Cole said. “He was kind, he was considerate, he was fun to be around and he was patient. You’ve got a group of kids bouncing all over the place high on chocolate and sugar. And yet he was so tolerant and very generous with his screen time.”

“Some stars just want all the limelight for themselves. They want all the laughs. They want all the moments. Gene was never that person,” she went on. “And I think that’s evident in his work. Not just in ‘Willy Wonka,’ but everywhere else. He recognized the strength of being an ensemble.”

And that’s why Gene Wilder will always be remembered fondly for being the person behind the scenes that he portrayed in his movies.

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