Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl originally envisioned Charlie as black

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Sep 15, 2017

The classic tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory follows the fantastical adventures of a young boy named Charlie Bucket during a visit to eccentric Willy Wonka’s titular haven of all things sweet and scrumptious.

But if he'd had his way, legendary author Roald Dahl would have wanted the character to be black. 

During a BBC Radio 4 interview to mark the 101st anniversary of Dahl’s birthday on Wednesday, his widow, Liccy Dahl, revealed that her husband first created Charlie as a young black boy, saying: “His first Charlie that he wrote about, you know, was a little black boy. I'm sure that was influenced by America.”

So, what happened? Dahl’s biographer Donald Sturrock explained the author was dissuaded by his agent. “It was his agent who thought it was a bad idea, when the book was first published, to have a black hero. She said: 'People would ask why.' ”

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Liccy said it was a “great pity” her husband's vision underwent a change in the book, adding it would be “wonderful” to see the story the way her husband had originally intended it — and she’s not alone.

As Entertainment Weekly points out, filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma, Disney's upcoming A Wrinkle in Time) took to Twitter to throw her hat into the ring for a movie adaptation, writing: “*raises hand for movie adaptation.*” 

Replying to DuVernay’s tweet, a fan suggested the role of Willy Wonka (a role played by Gene Wilder in 1971 and Johnny Depp in 2005) be given to Tituss Burgess of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fame — and Burgess himself chimed in to express his keen interest in the role: “Ummmmm oh the fun I would have!”

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