Wonka Is Inspired By Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Says Paul King: ‘I’m Homaging Delicatessen’ – Exclusive Image


by Sophie Butcher |
Published on

Take one look at the latest trailer for Wonka, the origin story of Roald Dahl’s iconic chocolate-maker starring Timothée Chalamet, and it’s clear to see some of the things that director Paul King was taking inspiration from as he was making it. There is, of course, the warm, whimsical tone of his two previous Paddington movies, which looks to be in full effect here – and the rich world created by Dahl in the original novel. There are hints of classic musicals, slapstick comedy; the inventions and more fantastical elements feel like something from family favourite Chitty Chatty Bang Bang. But there’s also one major influence in there that you might not expect….

“I’m always thinking about Delicatessen, my formative movie,” King exclusively tells Empire, in our brand new December 2023 issue. Yes, he means 1991 film Delicatessen, aka. the surreal, sinister, darkly comedic, post-apocalyptic French movie by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, which features scenes of adultery, suicide, and cannibalism. Not quite what you’d think would be on the menu at Wonka’s future chocolate factory, is it? “Having comprehensively homaged Amélie in the Paddington movies, I’m now homaging Delicatessen,” King says. “One day I must write a letter of apology. ‘Cher Monsieur Jeunet...’”

There are other things in the mix too, including Fred Astaire (“In the days I’d read Roald Dahl, and in the evenings I would watch Fred and Ginger dancing around the place,” King says) and photographer Bill Brandt, “who did these incredible foggy cities and seemed to make the cities feel very storybooky and magical and dark”. Now that is a recipe for a completely unique take on the master chocolatier.

But despite consciously including this wonderfully mixed bag of references in this film and his other work, overtly curating his aesthetic isn’t King’s aim. “It’s not a wilful attempt to build a brand or a style,” he says. “I want to make films that have, hopefully, some visual fun, and that take you on a ride. I’m not very interested in the real world.” When the chocolate goodies look as delicious as Wonka’s do, neither are we.

Empire's Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom Covers

Read Empire’s full story on Wonka, talking to Paul King about his recipe for success, in the new Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom issue. On sale Thursday 26 October – pre-order a copy here. Wonka is in cinemas from 8 December.

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