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GRAIN OF VERUCA SALT: JULIE DAWN COLE 'WONKA' INTERVIEW

Interview with Julie Dawn Cole aka Veruca Salt
“Everyone wants to know where I went,” wrote Julie Dawn Cole about that bad egg chute. “But in reality I landed on some cardboard boxes and mattresses that were there to break my fall.”
Yet in the vivid imagination of an entire generation, who grew up experiencing WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY in theaters or when it played again and again on television, anything was possible as a group of kids, having won a coveted Golden Ticket...

This montage built into the story throughout the suspenseful, entertaining first act... takes a wonderfully bizarre tour into Willy Wonka’s colorful, mysterious and, at times, downright spooky Chocolate Factory, and, according to their individual shortcomings, the kids begin to vanish, one after the other. And of all the young characters on board, Veruca Salt is probably the most deserving of punishment; a spoiled little girl literally wanting it all... And here’s an interview with the actress, Julie Dawn Cole, about working on this timeless 1971 motion picture that several generations were raised on, and are, still. 
JulIe as Veruca Salt
How did you get the part in the movie?
I was at stage school in London, and the casting director came to my school and lined up all the girls of the right age and height.

A real cattle call, and then the lucky ones were called back a few more times, until finally it was between me and one other girl.
Do you think there are any good qualities to Veruca?
Veruca Salt, was spoilt! That is it really, just spoiled rotten...

Her parents never said no, so she got used to getting her own way. Perhaps not so much of a rotten child, as rotten parenting! I guess she was my alter ego, the things I might like to get away with, but knew my mum would never let me do!
Julie Dawn Cole
How was your musical number filmed?
I went out before filming began to pre-record my song, then the orchestra laid down their track and then finally I sang it again with some changes to the lyrics. 

There was some discussion in the beginning as to whether I would record it myself or be dubbed, as it was quite a tricky song with syncopated rhythm and key changes.
I went to meet Walter Scharf, the musical director at his hotel in London, and sang it to him, whilst he accompanied me on the grand piano, which was in the lobby or somewhere in the hotel.

After which he said, "Yup! You can do it!" So that was the decision made. I used to practice lip-synching on a reel-to-reel tape recorder in my hotel bedroom, and on Saturday mornings when everyone else was having fun, I rehearsed the dance sequence with Howard Jeffrey, the choreographer... The stand out memory was, of course, that when we filmed the final sequence, it was my 13th birthday!
Veruca meets Willy Wonka
What was the first scene shot?
The scene where Veruca finds her golden ticket was filmed out of sequence, in fact the first scene we all shot as kids (apart from Charlie) was the exterior of the factory when we are waiting to go in...

It was a very hot day in September, and I remember sitting, sweltering in that wretched mink coat – which I hated, especially the hat! It was also the first time anyone ever asked for my autograph, and I wrote home to tell my mum.
The film was made in Germany and I was away from home for the first time. Letter writing was very important! No email back then. When I wrote my memoirs of life on the set (titled "I Want It Now!" published by Bear Manor Media) my mum produced all the letters I had written home, and they were a great source of information for things I had forgotten. They are all reproduced in the book, and even my description of meeting Gene Wilder for the first time. Lucky for me that she had kept them. And we kids were and are great friends. We are more like cousins or brothers and sisters. Denise Nickerson and I still refer to each other as 'sis'. Though of course back in the day we were rivals for the attention of Peter Ostrum, who was oblivious to it. Boys are so much slower than girls!
The Trippin' Scene
What was it like working on that incredible set?
The chocolate room was truly amazing, colourful and huge! No computer generated sets back then. I used to take a picnic lunch onto the set and have a picnic by the river it was wonderful.
How was the boat sequence pulled off?
The ferryboat scene, if anything, was rather tedious to film. The boat was raised up in the air, so that the film could be projected behind it, and once you were in that boat, you were stuck there. No wandering off to explore anywhere else. But Roy Kinnear kept me amused with little jokes and silly poems.
Wilder as Willy Wonka
What was Gene Wilder like?
Gene Wilder was lovely and never lost his patience with us, though I am sure having five kids bouncing around all day must have been tiresome... Mel Stuart on the other hand, was a typical abrupt, snappy director, but underneath I know he had a soft spot for us all.
We were all quite scared of him, and if he said jump, you didn't argue, but that was just his way. And I met with his daughter Madeleine recently and we shared stories about him. Madeleine had one line in the movie, "About 100.” She wanted to play Veruca but luckily for me. Mel wouldn't let her!
Jennifer with Peter Ostrum
Was it a surprise how endearing and timeless the film would become?
None of us had any idea how the movie would endure, how could you? It didn't do well at the box office and it was only later when it came to be shown on TV that it began to grow... My life didn't change at all, I went back to school and because the film didn't last long at the cinemas, it was quickly forgotten. I carried on working and got a break in a BBC series when I was 17 that launched my adult career.
Wants It All!
For many years the two halves of my career were entirely separate… Then gradually people made the connection, and I am now pleased that it brings such a smile to peoples faces when they make the discovery...

I mentioned the book before, but I was asked to do it by my co-author Michael Esslinger, and we would Skype every week in order to get it done. He is based in California and I was in the UK. It was nice for me to remember some of the fun times, and even more importantly I was very happy that my Mum got to read it before she passed away.
Now of course it is a record that I can give to my two children. India is 24 years old and is a doctor, and my son is in his last year of university studying mechanical engineering. I am no longer acting, but I am a child psychotherapist working at a hospice in Surrey. A far cry from Veruca Salt. Mind you, all she needed was a good therapist... or maybe her parents did!

CLICK HERE TO BUY JULIE'S BOOK ON AMAZON
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