`Willy Wonka` director Mel Stuart dies at 83

London: Mel Stuart, the director of the beloved childhood classic ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, died on Thursday night of cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.

His family said he died at his Beverly Hills home.

He began his career mainly directing documentaries, the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book was Stuart’s second feature film.

He got nominated for an Oscar in 1965 for his documentary, ‘Four Days in November’, regarding the assassination of John F Kennedy.

According to his own website, he made more than 180 films.

However, he was best known for children classic ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, starring Gene Wilder.

He decided to helm the ambitious musical fantasy after his 11-year-old daughter asked him to make a movie of the book she loved. She was also given a cameo in the film, along with her brother.

Julie Dawn Cole, who essayed the character of Veruca Salt in the movie, told the BBC that she had “fond memories” of working with Stuart.

“He always said he didn’t like kids and that he made a movie for adults that he hoped kids would like,” she said.

“He created an amazing film that has lasted and endured against all odds as it wasn’t popular at the time,” she said.

The actress last saw the legendary director in October in New York when the cast reunited for the film’s 40th anniversary.

“He was on form - barking orders as he always had done, organising a photoshoot,” she said.

“I’m glad I saw him last year - it’s one hell of a legacy to leave,” she said.

The Omen screenwriter David Seltzer, who got his break from Stuart at the age of 26, said that he was “a mentor by way of drill sergeant, much-feared boss and much-loved friend”.

Born in New York, Stuart had originally aspired to be a composer, but after university decided to instead pursue a career as a filmmaker.

During the 1960s and 1970s, he worked with award-winner David Wolper’s production company and made dozens of documentary films.

Stuart’s films included three editions of ‘The Making of the President’, ‘Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’ and the groundbreaking film ‘Wattstax’, which focused on Los Angeles’ black Watts community in the aftermath of the 1965 riots.

After quitting the Wolper Organisation in 1977, Stuart went on to independently direct and produce numerous other documentaries like ‘AFI’s 100 Years-100 Movies’, ‘Inside the KGB’ and the ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ TV series.

He is survived by his wife, Roberta and three children.


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