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02nd Apr 2018

Boy who starred in ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ never acted again

He took up a different career

Reuben Pinder

He took up a different career.

Child actors often go off the rails if their stardom continues throughout their formative years, unable to handle the attention and fame that comes with having an instantly recognisable face.

In the case of Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the opposite was true. Ostrum starred in the 1971 classic featuring the late Gene Wilder, but has not had an acting role since.

He was only in the sixth grade when acting agents saw him perform at the Cleveland Play House children’s theatre and asked him to audition for the role. He was reportedly offered a three-movie deal once he had finished filming Willy Wonka, but turned it down and decided to go down a different path.

Upon returning home after filming his only Hollywood movie, his parents had bought a horse and Ostrum grew fascinated by the veterinarian who would come to carry out checks on the animal. That was his mind made up – he went on to become a vet.

Speaking to the American Veterinarian Medical Association in 2000, he said: “Everybody thinks that acting is such a glamorous profession, but it’s a difficult profession.

“I can remember the veterinarian coming out and taking care of the horses, and it made a huge impression on me.

“This person really enjoyed what he did for a living. My father was a lawyer, and I really didn’t have a clue what he did all day. But I knew exactly what the veterinarian did. Someone making a living from something he enjoyed so much really sparked my interest.”

Dr Ostrum’s decision to follow his passion when he could have pursued a lucrative film career is slightly surprising, but admirable.