Hello Mixed-Up Filers!
We are in for an enormous treat today!
Whenever I interview anyone, I usually ask them what their favorite childhood movie was. Among the top answers I always receive is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It’s among my favorites as well, and that is why this is definitely among the most excited I’ve ever been to conduct an interview. Please help me welcome one of the stars of that film, Julie Dawn Cole, who played one of the most memorable child characters ever, Veruca Salt!
Julie Dawn Cole
JR: Hi Julie, and thanks for joining us today!
To start with, after you agreed to do the interview, I went back and watched Willy Wonka again, and it brought me right back to my childhood. It’s a movie that I watched as a kid, and loved when I got to see it again through that lens when I watched it with my children. The film has such a timeless feel. How often do you go back and rewatch it and can you distance yourself from the film and just enjoy it, or is it a more analytical and emotional experience?
JDC: I confess that I don’t go back and watch it as a whole, but if friends are around and it is on, then I might dip in. Though when I do watch it, it is like watching a scrap book for me, I remember what happened just before we did that etc etc, I remember the stuff surrounding it.
JR: I’m sure in many ways it’s like a home movie. At what point did you realize that the movie would have such tremendous staying power?
JDC: Not until the 80’s probably when it was shown on TV regularly and then gained its cult following. When It was released, it didn’t do well at the box office and came and went. In fact for many years, I hardly mentioned it, and I think for a while I left it off my resume, as it wasn’t relevant, and was a ‘kids movie’ and not a very popular one.
JR: That’s still amazing to me how it only got popular years after its release. You are my daughter’s favorite in the movie. Even though you played the perfect bratty child, you’ve picked up a big cult following, including a rock band named Veruca Salt. That’s a testament to your performance. What do you think it is about that character, which even though she was soooo bratty, kids still loved her?
JDC: I guess secretly we all have an inner dark self that we might like to let loose! Veruca does and says what we might secretly think but would never dare do, or be allowed to do.
Julie as Veruca Salt and now
JR: Have you had any interaction with the band?
JDC: Sadly no, though I think we connected via twitter.
The band, Veruca Salt
JR: Other than Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, you were the only kid to have a song, which was a memorable one. That must’ve been a feather in your cap.
JDC: It still annoys Paris, (Mike Teevee) he was desperate to have a song, and used to walk around singing ‘where is love’ hoping they might relent and write him one!
Paris Themmen as Mike TeeVee
JR: That’s very funny. Willy Wonka was your first film. What was that like for a kid to go in filming with some established actors and big names like Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Roy Kinnear?
I was in awe of the woman who played my mother, Pat Coombs, and she doesn’t even get a credit! But don’t forget I was 12, and didn’t know who Gene and Jack were. I had seen Roy Kinnear on British TV, but as a kid I think you just accept things.
Julie with Roy Kinnear and Pat Coombs
JR: That innocence was probably a good thing! What are your memories of Gene Wilder?
Gene was very sweet and kind, especially when he found out that I was the only kid who didn’t have a relative with them on location. 3 months in Germany away from home. I think he felt for me with that, and went out of his way to make a fuss of me. Plus probably the British accent helped!
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka
JR: The accent certainly works on my daughter, she’s obsessed with all things British! I just read and loved your memoir, I Want it Now, which was so much fun. You included so many personal items like pictures and letters that you wrote from the time, that I felt like I was a part of the experience. There are tons of great stories that fans of yours and fans of the movie will find amazing and they’ll love being able to reminisce with you. I highly recommend everyone to go and purchase it from your website, https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/ where they can get a signed and personalized copy, but are there some fun anecdotes from the making of Willy Wonka that you can share with us here?
JDC: I think most of them are covered in the book, apart from the fact that we used to play with an Ouija board in our hotel room. ( I didn’t include that bit,) let’s face it we were often bored and there was no cable TV.
JR: Actually, the Ouija Board sounds like an interesting evening. I was saddened to read about Denise Nickerson’s unfortunate passing. Did you have contact with her before then?
JDC: I saw Denise regularly, and we were in contact just 2 weeks before she had her stroke. Paris was staying with me on vacation and Rusty Goffe (who played one of the Oompa Loompas), had joined us for lunch, so we gave her a call. Denise and I always called each other Sis. I was incredibly sad, when she died. She had a terrible year following her stroke and never recovered. Paris and I visited her in September just after her stroke. She had recovered well, but her speech was slow, and she struggled, So we sang Willy Wonka songs, and she seemed really happy. It was one of the saddest days I have known. That was the last time I saw her, waving goodbye from her balcony window.
JR: I’m glad you had that time together. You’ve gotten together with the cast many times for reunions. Do you all still keep in touch?
JDC: Yes all still in touch, last time was when I saw Paris and Pete for the launch of a pinball machine! We had a lot of fun.
JR: Okay, I have to ask, the Oompa Loompas seemed to be working day and night at the whim of Wonka, shouldn’t they have unionized?
JDC: Of course they should!!!! Wonka was exploiting them.
JR: Speaking of Oompa Loompas, what was your first impression at seeing the chocolate room?
JDC: It was beautiful, and such fun to run round. I used to take my lunch to the riverbank and have my own little picnic.
Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room
JR: I don’t blame you. That set looked magnificent. And I read that you actually hated chocolate? My daughters are the same, and I question their bloodlines because of that, but how was it for someone who hated chocolate to be surrounded by it?
JDC: There wasn’t as much chocolate as most people think there was. I guess the most was in the salts salted peanut factory when they were shelling wrappers, but most of those were dummies.
JR: You have had such a lengthy and fantastic career. Out of your post-Wonka roles, which are some of your favorites and why?
JDC: Couldn’t really say, but I have certainly had fun, and got to travel lots. I worked out once that work had taken me to 40 countries!
JR: That’s amazing! You really have been fortunate to get to see so many different places and cultures. Can you share any fun anecdotes regarding some of your other roles?
JDC: I was working on a movie called ‘Camille’ with an amazing cast, including the gorgeous Colin Firth. I shared a trailer with Billie Whitelaw, and we were on location near Versaille. Relaxing after lunch there was a little knock on the door. It was Sir John Gielguid. He asked if he could join us, as he was lonely on his own! What an amazing afternoon. Another time I had to meet Katherine Hepburn, and read a script with her. (I didn’t get the part) she said in that wonderful voice, “Oh you are so much better at this than I am!”. Not true of course, but oh how magical to read with her.
Camille (1984 film)
JR: Do you ever do conventions?
JDC: Yes, we had some planned for the 50th anniversary, but sadly all on hold.
JR: That is sad. Would love to get to see you at a convention! How are your interactions with fans?
JDC: Interesting, especially the lady who has a full sized tattoo of me on her back! (Kansas City)
JR: Now THAT’S a fan! On your Facebook page, Julie Dawn Cole – The ORIGINAL Veruca Salt, you recently posted videos of you reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was such a treat. I read the comments in the videos, and you just saw how much that meant to fans. It really was nice of you to do. Did that give you a new sense of how much of a part you played in the childhoods of so many people?
JDC: That was a fun thing to do, and early lockdown was such a scary time for us all. It was lovely to see all the comments, and I feel I know so many of the fans. It was such a thrill that people enjoyed it. When we first did it, my kids said ‘ who is going to watch it?’ I” don’t know “I replied, ‘but I know the neighbours’ children will be watching, so that is 3.”I was stunned when we were getting thousands of hits. We are thinking of maybe doing it again for a YouTube channel. Watch this space!
JR: Will the videos be up for a while?
JDC: Hope so!
JR: Since we’re a site dedicated to children’s books, what was your favorite childhood book?
JDC: Pookie! By Ivy Wallace. I read them all as a child and have been collecting them for my Granddaughter. I loved them, they are out of print now, but I managed to find a first edition. Pookie got me through some very difficult times in my childhood.
Pookie by Ivy Wallace
JR: With so many people saying that Wonka was their favorite childhood movie, do you have a favorite childhood movie?
JDC: In search of the Castaways, starring Hayley Mills. My childhood heroine!
In Search of the Castaways
JR: I enjoyed that one as well! You currently work in a cancer center as a psychotherapist. What made you decide to transition away from acting to pursue that field?
JDC: It was time to do something more meaningful.
JR: That’s very admirable. How can people follow you on social media?
JDC: My Facebook page is the best way, Julie Dawn Cole, the original Veruca Salt.
Twitter – @realverucasalt
JR: Julie, I’d like to once again thank you for joining us. This has been a real treat, and you’re welcome back anytime!
JDC: Thank you!
Again, I highly recommend checking out Julie’s memoir, I Want it Now! There were so many great behind-the-scenes stories from Willy Wonka, and Julie included perosnal letters and pictures from the time, which made you feel like you were there.
Check it out:
Julie’s site, where you have an opportunity to have it personalized: https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/