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‘You were a brat!’: What happened when Gene Wilder met a Willy Wonka child star decades on

Paris Themmen, who played TV-obsessed rascal Mike Teavee in the classic, recalls meeting Wilder as an adult

Ellie Harrison
Thursday 01 July 2021 09:31 BST
Violet turns into a blueberry in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory scene

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory child star Paris Themmen has described what it was like meeting the film’s lead Gene Wilder, decades after they starred together.

To celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary this week, several of the child actors came together for a virtual reunion.

Themmen, who played Golden Ticket-winner and TV-obsessed rascal Mike Teavee in the film, was joined by Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop), and Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde).

Since shooting the movie, Themmen has been described as a “notorious troublemaker on the set”, with Wilder calling him “a handful”.

“I can corroborate that,” the actor said. “I was younger than the others. I was 11, they were 13 and I was naturally just sort of more high-spirited and rambunctious.”

Themmen, 62, recalled meeting Wilder decades after filming the 1971 film. “I said, ‘Hi, Gene, how you doing? I’m Paris Themmen, I was Mike Teavee in Willy Wonka,’” he recounted.

“And he said, ‘Oh you were a brat!’ And I flashed all the way back 50 years, or 40 years at that time, and said, ‘Well, I’m 50-something now and maybe not as much of a brat.’ And he signed my poster, ‘To my favourite brat.’”

Wilder died in 2016 at the age of 83. He is also beloved for his roles in Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Silver Streak.

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