Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

'Willy Wonka and me,' by Quentin Blake

wwhero.jpg
qbhero.jpg
heroww.jpg

As Sam Mendes’ stage interpretation of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London this week, Quentin Blake, writing exclusively for Stylist, reveals how he first brought Willy Wonka to life.

“I confess I can’t help feeling that my visualisation of a Roald Dahl book is the ‘real’ one – partly because I discussed the illustrations with Roald and drew what he wanted; partly because those drawings are what parents and children have known over the years; and partly because when you illustrate a book you live all the parts and come to feel you know them. That doesn’t give me a problem with other versions, for film or stage or in print. They are all works capable of being re-visited, and it’s interesting to see someone else’s take on the work.

It all began over 30 years ago with The BFG. Roald and I had done two books together already, but it was with The BFG that we discovered we needed to talk to each other in more detail. What was the BFG going to wear, for instance? We sat at the dinner table at Gipsy House [Dahl’s home in Buckinghamshire] and talked about it. I did some rough drawings, then a few days later a brown-paper parcel arrived containing one of Roald’s own Norwegian sandals, which became what the BFG wears in the book.

In 1990, after Roald’s death, Penguin Books bought the rights to the books I hadn’t previously worked on and asked me to re-illustrate them. So, no collaborative conversations now, alas; but because I had worked so closely with Roald over 15 years, I felt I had a sense of what he would like. And I wasn’t entirely on my own, because Mrs Dahl [Felicity Crosland] was there for counsel and advice.

With the hair of the Oompa-Loompas, for instance, other illustrators made it fuzzy, curly and hippy – I wanted to make their hair stand on end, to be more spritely and mischievous.

You won’t see it, however in the musical of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, where the Oompa-Loompas have been re-interpreted yet again for the stage.

I am writing this after my first visit. I’m very pleased to have made a contribution – the show opens with some of my drawings animated to show the story of chocolate; and not only that, but my mind is still bursting with the host of amazements Sam Mendes has created in re-visiting Roald’s imagination.”

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is on now at Theatre Royal Drury Lane; charlieand thechocolatefactory.com

Related

hero-2.jpg

100 best films based on books

famous-five.jpg

The 50 best children's books

charhero2.jpg

100 best opening lines from children's books

Comments

More

Elisabeth Moss on why you shouldn't binge watch The Handmaid's Tale

"You may need a second to step back and think about what you’ve seen"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Apr 2017

Exclusive: young mother who escaped Boko Haram shares her story

"I had to be prepared for the worst at all times."

by Sarah Biddlecombe
07 Apr 2017

Margaret Atwood has penned a brand-new ending for The Handmaid’s Tale

And she’s hinted at a sequel, too…

by Kayleigh Dray
06 Apr 2017

Witherspoon & Kidman are already planning a Big Little Lies follow-up

They have optioned a second Liane Moriarty book.

by Hayley Spencer
05 Apr 2017

The best new books of April

From learning to adult to haunting short stories

by Sarah Shaffi
04 Apr 2017

The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist is announced

Meet your spring reading list

by Sarah Biddlecombe
03 Apr 2017

The storyteller: Romola Garai kicks off Stylist’s Book Club

The actress shares her top 10 reads

by Helen Bownass
01 Apr 2017

Expert tips on how to beat writer's block

Five tips to get the words flowing

by Sarah Biddlecombe
31 Mar 2017

The nightmarish full trailer for The Handmaid's Tale has landed

Chilling

by Amy Swales
24 Mar 2017

Incredible quotes about mothers in literature

Tissues, at the ready...

by Jasmine Andersson
23 Mar 2017