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There are a few actors in Hollywood who start acting as children and continue in their acting careers through adulthood. There are far more who appear in one or a few movies and then move on to completely different careers. Peter Ostrum is one interesting example of an actor who left the big screen behind. 

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Ostrum played Charlie Bucket in ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’

Ostrum was born November 1, 1957, in Dallas, Texas but spent most of his childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, according to IMDb. While in Cleveland, he enjoyed acting for the local children’s theater. It is from those productions that he got discovered for his only film appearance. He starred as Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Ostrum was an instant hit in his role as the lovable Charlie. Ostrum, however, did not love acting in the film enough to want to return. He even turned down a three-movie deal he received as soon he finished Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He said, “When it was over, I was anxious to become just another kid again.”

Ostrum didn’t enjoy talking about his time as a child actor for a long time. Now that a lot of time has passed, Ostrum can look back with fondness. He said,

“For a long time, I hated talking about the movie. When anyone brought it up, I wanted to change the topic. I didn’t want to be known as the former child actor. Now, since I’ve been out of the industry for so long and have grown up, I look on the whole experience with fond memories and see it as a wonderful part of my life. It’s fun to reflect now with the maturity that I didn’t have at one point when I was younger.” 

OWN reports that Ostrum and his fellow child actors (a.k.a the “Wonka Kids”) maintain a close relationship to this day. They often come together at celebrity signing events around the country. 

Ostrum attended Cornell University 

Ostrum used the earnings he got from starring in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory to buy his first horse, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He started working at the stable where his horse was kept. It was his horse’s veterinarian that left a strong impression on him. 

About the veterinarian, Ostrum said,

“I can remember the veterinarian coming out and taking care of the horses, and it made a huge impression on me. This person really enjoyed what he did for a living. My father was a lawyer, and I really didn’t have a clue what he did all day. But I knew exactly what the veterinarian did. Someone making a living from something he enjoyed so much really sparked my interest.”

Ostrum took time off between high school and college to work as a groom at a few stables, and then he worked at the Delaware Equine Center in Pennsylvania. He ultimately ended up at Cornell University, where he earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) in 1984. 

Ostrum lives and works in Upstate New York 


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Ostrum now works as a veterinarian at a small veterinary clinic in Lowville, NY. He is a senior partner and primarily works on dairy farms. For over 25 years, Ostrum has found great satisfaction in working closely with dairy farm owners and their families. 

On top of his veterinary practice, Ostrum has also been featured on the reality series called Vets on Call, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health. The show sought to raise awareness about the unique bond between rural veterinarians and their dairy farmer clients and to hopefully inspire young people to enter the food animal medicine career. 

Ostrum enjoys visiting public schools in his area to talk about his movie role and his work as a veterinarian. He seeks to teach about how our life can change based on our decisions. He said, “Acting was fine, but I wanted something more steady. The key is to find something you love doing, and that’s what I got.”