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Director Mel Stuart's kids tell stories from the making of the original 'Willy Wonka'




Madeline and Peter Stuart in 1970, with grandfather Edgar Solomon, on the set of
Madeline and Peter Stuart in 1970, with grandfather Edgar Solomon, on the set of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," which was directed by their father Mel Stuart.
Courtesy Madeline Stuart

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Madeline Stuart says, "I couldn't imagine a kid who wouldn't want to finish school every day" and come hang out on the movie set.

That kid was Madeline (and her brother Peter), and the film was 1971's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," based on Roald Dahl's book, directed by their father Mel Stuart.

Stuart worked in TV and film, directing "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium," the documentary "Wattstax," and more than a hundred other projects. "But there's no question," Madeline says, "that Willy Wonka is what endeared him to so many millions of people."

Madeline and Peter Stuart will be joining me onstage at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A. on Wednesday, June 24, at 8 p.m., to introduce a screening of "Willy Wonka" with stories and photos from their time on the set. It's part of the L.A. Conservancy's Last Remaining Seats series.

"This was my favorite book," she says. "I brought the book to my father and said, 'Dad, I'd like you to make a movie out of my favorite book.' Granted not every little girl's father is a director, and not every little girl's father is inclined to listen to a little girl, but my father wisely did."

So, they lived in Germany, where the film was shot, and every day after school at a U.S. military base they would take the tram to the studio. "For us, it was like walking into the pages of your favorite book," but not just for the few hours when you watch a movie or read a book, but for days and days during the shoot.

She and Peter have small roles in the film, and she says she delights in the dark tone that startled many moviegoers. "We all have a dark side to our nature, and children are evil little creatures. And the book and the film really capture that, that children can be spoiled, bratty, obnoxious, and the film outs kids for their own bad behavior." And they get their comeuppance ... except for Charlie.

For much more, listen to the audio of our interview.