‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ Actor Peter Ostrum Didn’t Tell His Wife He Was a Child Star

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one of the most popular children’s movies of all time. Starring Gene Wilder as the eccentric candy maker, the film was released in 1971. To this day, new generations of fans discover the classic film, enthralled by the charming story and delightful performances. While Wilder was an established star at the time, most of the child performers were not. In a 2005 interview, Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in the classic film, opened up about why he decided to step away from acting for good.

‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ is a beloved musical fantasy film

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is based on a book by Roald Dahl. But filmmakers decided to take things to the next level and make the story a musical. To that end, classic songs like “The Candy Man” and “Pure Imagination” helped to solidify the movie’s legacy. By the ’80s, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory had become a cult classic.

These days, many consider the movie one of the most iconic of the ’70s, thanks in large part to the contributions of the talented cast. Among that cast was Peter Ostrum. At just 12 years old, he landed the role of Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Why did Peter Ostrum decide to leave acting after ‘Willy Wonka’?

peter ostrum willy wonka
(L-R): Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket on the set of the fantasy film ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,’ based on the book by Roald Dahl, 1971. | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Born in 1957, Ostrum became interested in acting as a young boy and started performing in local children’s theaters. Talent agents selected him to play Charlie during a nationwide search according to IMDb. Ostrum’s life changed in a big way when he went to Munich to film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Though he had a good experience making the film, he decided to step away from filmmaking after it was done.

After turning down a three-movie deal, Ostrum became interested in studying veterinary medicine. He attended school to become a vet, with an emphasis on treating horses and other large animals. For years, Ostrum didn’t even talk about his brief tenure in Hollywood. According to a 2005 interview with NPR, Ostrum even kept his past as a child actor hidden from his wife at first. He only mentioned it when the two got serious and when he was preparing to meet her mother.

Are the other ‘Willy Wonka’ performers still acting?

These days, Ostrum still prefers to keep his distance from Hollywood. But he’s become more open about his time making Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. As for some of Ostrum’s co-stars in the movie, many chose to continue their pursuit of an acting career.

Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregarde in the film, went on to appear in several television shows, including the cult classic Dark Shadows. And Julie Dawn Cole, who portrayed Veruca Salt, has acted continuously over the years, appearing in stage productions and on TV shows. She even released a memoir in 2016, detailing her time on the set of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Michael Bollner, who played Augustus Gloop, and Paris Themmen, who played Mike Teevee, both opted for “normal” careers after making Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Bollner became a tax accountant and Themmen dabbling in real estate and film production.

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