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‘You’re good at playing washed-up, old hams’: ‘Wonka’ director Paul King throws shade while discussing why he cast Hugh Grant

Talk about laying it on thick!

Hugh Grant in full costume, orange skin, green hair, and purple blazer, as an Oompa Loompa in the film 'Wonka'.
Image via Warner Bros.

Even when he was making a name for himself as a dashing rom-com lead, Hugh Grant always had a snarky edge to all of his performances. That’s exactly what drove director Paul King to reconnect with him for Wonka, following their collaboration in Paddington 2.

Speaking to Total Film, King confessed to immediately thinking of Grant when he was researching the Oompa Loompa’s “real s**t” nature, characterized by “humor, sarcasm, superiority, and scorn.” He offered the iconic orange-tinted miniature-sized role to the acclaimed actor via letter, but when it came to explaining the thought process behind this peculiar casting choice, King didn’t mince his words.

“I had to write him this awkward letter, saying, ‘You’re good at playing washed-up, old hams…'”

The blunt honesty strategy must have worked because Grant took the job, joining Timothée Chalamet, Rowan Atkinson, Matt Lucas, Olivia Colman, Sally Hawkins, and more in this Willy Wonka original story. The film, by the director of the Paddington films, will chronicle the chocolatier’s young years, including meeting his trusted Oompa Loompas.

For the role, Grant was digitally altered to fit the tiny men’s stature and visuals, but the actor was present on set. King was satisfied with the result, telling the magazine, that “Once you see Hugh Grant as an 18-inch high orange man with green hair, you go, ‘Ah, yes. I know what Oompa Loompas are. It all makes perfect sense.'”

Not everyone saw eye to eye with the filmmaker on the decision, with the casting sparking debate among people with dwarfism. Audiences will determine for themselves whether Grant was the right fit for the role when Wonka lands in theaters Dec. 15, 2023, just in time for a chocolate-filled Christmas!

Francisca Tinoco
About the author

Francisca Tinoco

Francisca is a pop culture enthusiast and film expert. Her Bachelor's Degree in Communication Sciences from Nova University in Portugal and Master's Degree in Film Studies from Oxford Brookes University in the UK have allowed her to combine her love for writing with her love for the movies. She's a freelance writer and content creator, working in both the English and Portuguese languages for various platforms, including WGTC.