It's been 44 years since "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" first hit theaters in 1971, and although we as viewers feel lucky to have experienced the film, it's the cast of kids—some of them grandparents now!—from the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic novel who really feel like they've been blessed.
Sitting down with the "Today" show Wednesday, Peter Ostrum (Charlie Buckets), Paris Themmen (Mike Teavee), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Rusty Goffe (an Oompa-Loompa), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde) and Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop) couldn't help but gush about being part of the film and how they're all still connected by it.
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"We think of ourselves as a family, maybe a bit of a dysfunctional family, but a family!" Themmen says with a laugh.
Interestingly enough, most of them (with the exception of Goffe), left the industry after making the film. Ostrum—who is now a veterinarian—says, "Everybody could be so lucky to have an experience like this and then to go in a completely different direction!"
Despite stepping out of the spotlight, they've all remained close because they continue to reunite at different events around the world.
One thing they all remember fondly is working with the great Gene Wilder, who never seemed to grow tired of them. "Five kids clambering all over you, wanting his attention," Cole recalls of filming with him. "There was never any, 'Please don't bother Mr. Wilder.' And we must have been pretty tiresome."
In general, the all unanimously agree that filming "Willy Wonka" was one of the best times of their lives, and if they could, they'd do it all over again.
"Look I mean, we are the fortunate ones," Nickerson says with a smile. "We're here, and we got to really see it and experience it. And the first thing people do when they find out who we are is they smile."
Cole adds, "We call in the Wonka effect."
Check out more from their interview on the "Today" show.