Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released in 1971, unlocking a world of pure imagination starring my all-time celeb crush, Gene Wilder. Wonka had everything: haunting musical numbers, little orange men, a sexy chocolatier in a fabulous purple suit, and a gaggle of poorly behaved children sent to unpleasant ends. In honor of Wonka’s 50th anniversary, Polygon writer Matt Patches spoke to the cast about the film’s most stressful scene, in which young hedonist Augustus Gloop plunges into the murky depths of Wonka’s chocolate river.
Patches frames the interview as a brief oral history, and some of the quotes are pretty eye-opening. Michael Bollner, who played Augustus Gloop, informed Patches that the river wasn’t actually made of chocolate. “It was terribly cold,” Bollner told Patches. “It was stinky water! And it was all day long, jumping in and jumping out, and being around with wet clothes.” Julie Dawn Cole, who played Grade-A bee-yotch Veruca Salt, added that the water “had been sitting there for three weeks,” and crew members often emptied their coffee cup dregs into it.
Per the article, the river was also dangerously shallow. “The river was just 10 centimeters deep,” Bollner explained. “And there was a hole about a square meter that I had to hit. So I was very scared that I would not hit the square meter, and would punch my head in the ground of the chocolate river.” Fortunately, Bollner hit his mark with ease. Unfortunately, it seems the acrobatic demands of Hollywood were too much for the Wonka actor, who now works as a tax lawyer back in his home country of Germany. No matter: Bollner really left it all out on the court in the 1971 flick. If you’d like to celebrate the film’s anniversary, check out the full oral history on Polygon.