These days, Dwayne Johnson basically has his pick of movie roles, from the charismatic action hero successfully making the transition to mute wrestling superstar in The Scorpion King to the star of anything he’s in these days. But in another timeline, one of Johnson’s breakout roles would have been an unexpected one. With an Instagram video posted over the weekend, Johnson reflected upon how he was considered by director Tim Burton for the role of Willy Wonka in the film that went on to star Johnny Depp as the candy factory owner from Roald Dahl’s children’s book.
The video that Johnson posted on Instagram was not from the 2005 film he was in the running for but the original 1971 theatrical release where Gene Wilder stars in the Willy Wonka role. That movie was called Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, but despite focusing on slightly different aspects of the Dahl classic the plots are very similar. Depp’s Wonka, though, is significantly different from Wilder’s in a variety of ways, which is why it’s fascinating to consider that Johnson could have been Wonka if things had worked out differently.
“Some cool history – back in the early 2000’s, iconic director, Tim Burton had considered me to play Willy Wonka is his remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Johnson wrote in the Instagram caption. “I remember thinking “HOLY SH*T, IM IN.”
The movie star noted that he had “no foundation of global box office strength or any real acting experience to even pull it off” at the time, and Depp was “the biggest star in the world at the time.” So it clearly wasn’t meant to be. It’s a reflection on the past more than a longing for Johnson, who noted that sharing the original with his children made him think back on what could have been but not as a way to regret the missed opportunity.
“The fact that Tim even considered me (albeit I’m sure he considered for all of 7 seconds:) sure meant a helluva lot to me as I was just breaking in to the business with no idea what the future had in store,” Johnson said. “I’ll always raise a glass to the dreams that don’t come true, because sometimes they’re the best thing that never happened.”
Johnson shared the posting using the #BigBrownBaldTattooedWonka, which is definitely also something that Depp could not have pulled off as Wonka. We’ll never know what a Tim Burton Wonka movie with Johnson in the main role would have looked like, but if they ever try to remake it again, we know at least one movie star who would love to take another crack at it with a bit more experience this time.