Few actors can boast of being in as many Hollywood tentpoles as Rusty Goffe. Known primarily for being an Oompa Loompa in the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie, Goffe was a part of some of the biggest fantasy films in history, from the original Star Wars to a handful of appearances in the Harry Potter universe. The English actor even had to do a stunning amount of takes for a famous Willy Wonka scene, the role that launched his career.
Rusty Goffe struggled in one famous ‘Willy Wonka’ scene
Getting cast as an Oompa Loompa in the adaptation of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a huge break for Rusty Goffe, who was 22 as filming began in 1971. However, he soon found an unexpected nemesis: doing cartwheels in front of a rolling camera. In one of the famous dance numbers, Goffe was required to do a couple of cartwheels at the climax of the song—a task that Goffe couldn’t quite pull off.
While director Mel Stuart hoped repeated takes would help, Goffe only slightly improved his cartwheels over an eye-popping 76 takes, according to BuzzFeed. For comparison, Stanley Kubrick’s legendary shoot of The Shining required Shelley Duvall to try around 50 takes for some famous scenes, according to Vanity Fair. As Goffe would write in an article for The Guardian, part of the problem was the significant language barrier between the other Oompa Loompas and Stuart.
Still, Goffe also praised the production and even called Willy Wonka his favorite film. Goffe even rekindled memories of him performing live alongside the other Oompa Loompas in the years after Willy Wonka was released. Although he respected Tim Burton’s 2005 remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he lamented the new-age Hollywood trend of using digital replicas for dance numbers instead of a team of performers.
Goffe appeared in ‘Star Wars’ and other landmark films of the ’70s and ’80s
Despite the cartwheel fiasco, Rusty Goffe became a beloved part of the Willy Wonka crew and eventually had a front-row seat for film history. Following some smaller film and TV roles, Goffe was cast as three different minor characters in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. According to Star Wars Fandom, Goffe appeared as a Jawa and as a character in the iconic cantina scene; he was also the first actor to play a gonk droid, which has since been featured in dozens of different Star Wars storylines.
Even though Goffe was uncredited for his Star Wars appearances (just like with Willy Wonka), he landed a series of roles as the fantasy genre took off in the late 1970s and 1980s. Goffe starred in Flash Gordon in 1980 and a handful of other films and TV shows after Star Wars became a phenomenon.
A comedic actor at heart, Goffe also teamed with Mel Brooks in 1981 for A History of the World: Part 1 and later was cast by writer/producer George Lucas in Willow, the 1988 fantasy film starring Val Kilmer and Warwick Davis. After staying active in lesser-known projects throughout the 1990s, Goffe again landed in a high-profile Hollywood production when he was cast in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone outside the U.S.).
‘Harry Potter’ was the perfect career cap for Goffe
When Harry Potter producers needed goblin tellers for wizard bank Gringotts, they turned to Rusty Goffe and Warwick Davis. While Davis played the head goblin teller in Sorcerer’s Stone, Goffe played another teller and ultimately received an expanded role later in the series. By Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Goffe played the Chief Bank Teller when Harry, Hermione, and Ron break into Gringotts.
After four uncredited roles in the Harry Potter universe, Goffe’s role in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 would end up being one of the most prominent credited roles in his long career. (Although IMDb lists four total Harry Potter appearances for Goffe, Harry Potter Fandom points out Goffe was also in the Hogsmeade choir in Prisoner of Azkaban, giving him a total of five Harry Potter appearances)
Though Goffe’s first role might still be his most well-known, the 73-year-old has enjoyed a long and diverse career since being a centerpiece of the famous Oompa Loompa dance routines.