We uncover how Johnny Depp created his character, what's new in this version and who's unhappy about the remake

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July 01, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Once upon a time there was a movie star named Johnny. Johnny liked to dress up in strange outfits and make himself laugh. But sometimes his idea of fun would make the grown-ups uncomfortable. They’d ask him to be more like everyone else. But Johnny wouldn’t listen. Then one day, the grown-ups stopped asking him to be like the others and Johnny was suddenly very, very confused.

Meanwhile, in a curious and far-off land…
Johnny Depp is wearing fake teeth and a safari outfit. A pith helmet rests on his head. And in his hand is a very large machete to protect him from the hornswogglers, snozzwangers, and whangdoodles that live deep in the jungles of Loompaland.

As Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s crazed confectioner, Willy Wonka, Depp is bushwhacking his way through the far-off jungle home of the Oompa-Loompas (or, in this case, an enormous soundstage at England’s Pinewood Studios) in search of exotic new flavors for his sweets. If this tropical setting doesn’t ring any bells, that’s because Loompaland wasn’t in the original 1971 film that starred Gene Wilder. The new Charlie, as everyone involved is quick to point out, is not a remake. And while the basic story — five kids (four brats plus Charlie Bucket) find golden tickets and get a privileged peek inside Wonka’s top secret chocolate factory — remains the same, director Tim Burton went back to Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s book for his inspiration. ”A lot of people are huge fans of the movie and hold it in awe,” says Burton, enjoying the shade under one of Loompaland’s bamboo trees. ”I wasn’t one of them.”

Today in Loompaland, Depp is being chased through the jungle by a foot-long flying insect. The shot may sound straightforward enough, but take after take gets botched. Then, on take No. 6, Depp accidentally catches his boot on a fallen tree trunk and tumbles ass over teakettle, landing facedown in the mud. Before he can get up and say he’s all right, Burton is cracking up. Considering themselves cursed, the director and his star decide to try again after lunch. So Depp, in all of his fey Indiana Jones glory, pops his dentures out of his mouth and hands them to a female crew member, who plops them in a Ziploc bag filled with pinkish liquid. Depp asks her, ”That’s schnapps, right?”

Depp’s bizarre safari outfit is merely an appetizer for how downright freaky he looks as Wonka. For most of the $150 million film, he wears his hair in a Prince Valiant bob, has a powder white face, sports lavender contact lenses, and carries a see-through cane filled with candy. He’s also a germaphobe of Howard Hughesian proportions and speaks in a high-pitched voice that makes him sound like a 16-year-old Valley girl shopping for tank tops at the Galleria. Not surprisingly, Depp wanted to make Wonka even stranger. ”What I was really excited about was a long nose,” he says during a break in his trailer. ”I brought it up with Tim, and he was like, ‘Hang on, hang on. A prosthetic nose? Come on!”’

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