Wonka director reveals why Hugh Grant was his first choice for an Oompa Loompa

Timothée Chalamet and Hugh Grant in Wonka
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It wouldn't be Willy Wonka without the Oompa Loompas. Starring as one of the chocolatier's loyal helpers opposite Timothée Chalamet is none other than Hugh Grant, which director Paul King believes is a particularly perfect piece of casting. 

Described in the book as teeny creatures "no higher than my knee" with golden hair, but transformed into green-tressed, orange-skinned little people by Mel Stuart's film, King went back to the source material to find their voice.

"I was enchanted by the idea of these impossibly tiny beings, far smaller even than the child-sized me," King tells Total Film magazine in the new issue out on September 14, which features Wonka on the cover. "The voice and the attitude of the Oompa Loompa came from revisiting the books – long songs full of humour, sarcasm, superiority and scorn. So it was really just thinking about that character – someone who can be a real shit. And I went, 'Ah, Hugh [Grant]!' Because he's the funniest, most sarcastic shit that I've ever met! We'd been there before with Paddington 2. I had to write him this awkward letter, saying, 'You're good at playing washed-up, old hams…'"

Grant signed up and, though digitally created by Framestore, was physically on set for all his scenes so that he and Chalamet could rehearse and find an organic rhythm to their banter. If you've seen the trailer you'll have enjoyed the fun Grant brings to his diminutive character, trapped in a bell jar after stealing from Wonka. "Once you see Hugh Grant as an 18-inch high orange man with green hair," says King, "you go, 'Ah, yes. I know what Oompa Loompas are. It all makes perfect sense.'"

Wonka is in theaters this December 15. For everything else the year has in store, check out our guide to all of 2023's major movie release dates

The above is just a snippet of our interview in the new issue of Total Film magazine, which features Wonka on the cover. The magazine hits shelves this Thursday, September 14, and features new insight into everything from The Exorcist: Believer to Killers of the Flower Moon, as well as plenty of reviews for all of the latest releases.

Wonka covers of Total Film

(Image credit: Total Film)

If you're a fan of Total Film, why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue? You'll get the magazine before it’s in shops, with exclusive subscriber-only covers (like the one pictured above). With our latest offer, you can get a free gift worth £69.99 when you take out a print/bundle subscription. Head to MagazinesDirect to find out more (Ts and Cs apply).

Total Film subscriber offer

(Image credit: Total Film)
Contributing Editor, Total Film

Jane Crowther is a contributing editor to Total Film magazine, having formerly been the longtime Editor, as well as serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Film Group here at Future Plc, which covers Total Film, SFX, and numerous TV and women's interest brands. Jane is also the vice-chair of The Critics' Circle and a BAFTA member. You'll find Jane on GamesRadar+ exploring the biggest movies in the world and living up to her reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on film in the industry. 

With contributions from