The Oompa Loompa Actors on ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ Played Pranks on the Cast

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one of the most popular movies from the 20th century. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, the 1971 film takes viewers into the extraordinary candy-making factory run by Willy Wonka.

Wonka famously does not run the place by himself. Rather, he has help from a group of workers called the Oompa Loompas. Interestingly, the actors who played the Oompa Loompas were also just as mischievous as the characters themselves.

Who are the Oompa Loompas?

Actor Rusty Goffe poses with Oompa Loompas at the 40th anniversary of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Rusty Goffe (C) with Oompa Loompas at the 40th anniversary of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory | D Dipasupil/FilmMagic

In Dahl’s original novel, the Oompa Loompas are described as creatures from the fictional Loompaland. Wonka hired them to work in his factory after he visited Loompaland and saw their sordid living conditions and constant threats from predators.

They’ve also been portrayed as African pygmies. But Mel Stuart, the director for Willy Wonka, decided not to depict them this way. Because the movie was filmed during the time of the civil rights movement, Stuart changed the Oompa Loompas into orange-skinned creatures with green hair — a look that became memorable with the general public.

The Oompa Loompa actors reportedly played pranks on the rest of the cast

The movie was filmed in Munich, Germany. European actors from various countries played the Oompa Loompas. Despite some language barriers between the cast, the actors became friends and enjoyed playing pranks on the rest of the cast. Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) wrote about this during a Reddit AMA:

“The Oompa Loompas were notoriously mischievous. They were often drunk after a day’s shooting. We all stayed in a hotel together. In those days, when you wanted to have your shoes shined, you’d leave them outside of your hotel room door. One night the Oompa Loompas grabbed all the shoes, tied the laces together, and left them in a pile to be found in the morning.”

Only one actor played the Oompa Loompas in the 2005 version of ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’

In 2005, moviegoers got to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a remake starring Johnny Depp. Instead of casting multiple actors like in the 1971 version, however, only one actor, Deep Roy, portrayed the new Oompa Loompas. He was able to play 165 individual Oompa Loompas with the help of split-screen technology and other advancements.

“When Tim and I first discussed the part in 2003, he told me, ‘I’d love for you to play five Oompas.’ But five Oompas quickly turned into 165 — and they’re not computerized; I did each one individually myself,” Roy told Entertainment Weekly. “For example, there are 21 Oompas in the foreground during the first song, and as I acted out each one, we’d bring in professional dancers [as stand-ins] because I couldn’t do all 21 at the same time.”

He added, “Tim would come and watch the 20 dancers rehearse with me, and then I’d [switch and perform the other roles]. We did each number like that. Tim would say to me, ‘You’re the hardest-working man in showbiz.’”

According to the New Yorker, Roy had to undergo a special diet and workout routine. In the end, it took him “six months of 14-hour days” to film all of the Oompa Loompas’ scenes, including their various dance sequences. 

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