Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The chocolate river in Willy Wonka was a stinky, gross cesspool

“It was actually not chocolate. It was terribly cold. It was stinky water!"

Yummmmmmmm
Yummmmmmmm
Screenshot: Movieclips (Fair Use)

In a world of pure imagination, you find yourself pretending that a stinky, brown-colored, shallow river is actually a decadent chocolate stream. It turns out the iconic chocolate river Augustus Gloop falls into in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971), wasn’t chocolate at all. Instead, it was a gross, leftover coffee-filled, shallow bed of water.

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Michael Bollner, who played the gluttonous Gloop (the great big greedy nincompoop), tells Polygon, “It was actually not chocolate. It was terribly cold. It was stinky water! And it was all day long, jumping in and jumping out, and being around with wet clothes.”

Not only was it not chocolate, but Julie Dawn Cole—who played the spoiled Veruca Salt—shared some additional details about the murky water. She says the river was stale and used as a dumping ground for the cast’s coffee remains.

Michael had to fall into this disgusting stuff that had been sitting there for three weeks,” Cole says. “It had the lights on it, and people were emptying their coffee cup dregs into it.”

Not only potentially dangerous from a biological standpoint, the river was also very shallow, and the then 13-year-old Bollner had a small area he could fall into without bumping his noggin.  

“The river was just 10 centimeters deep. And there was a hole about a square meter that I had to hit,” Bollner explains. “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.”

“I remember watching that and being quite afraid for Michael because they were very adamant that, you know, ‘Not 6 inches to the left, not 6 inches to the right.’ Those were the shallow bits,” Cole adds. “There was a trough there that he could fall into. But, of course, you couldn’t see that because the chocolatey water masked it. So he had to really be specific on where he was going to tumble and hit that spot. I remember being quite anxious for him.”

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If you remember the whole scene, after falling into the river, Gloop is sucked up through a tube to the fudge room, never to be seen again. To film this part, Bollner had to sit in a tube filled to the gills with the brown liquid.

“It was a really tough thing because they took about 2 meters’ tube around me and filled it up with water up to my mouth,” Bollner says. “So I couldn’t move anything. I couldn’t do anything. I just had to rely on the guys that were around me that don’t drop me.”

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