Director Mel Stuart dies aged 83 at his Beverly Hills home
Mel Stuart, the director of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has died at his Beverly Hills home aged 83.
Mel Stuart’s family said he died after suffering from cancer.
Beginning his career mainly directing documentaries, the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book was Mel Stuart’s second feature film.
Mel Stuart was nominated for an Oscar in 1965 for his documentary, Four Days in November, about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
According to his own website, Mel Stuart made more than 180 films.
However he was best-known for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder.
He embarked on the ambitious musical fantasy after his 11-year-old daughter asked him to make a movie of the book she loved. She was also given a cameo in the film, along with her brother.
Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt in the movie, said she had “fond memories” of working with Mel Stuart.
“He always said he didn’t like kids and that he made a movie for adults that he hoped kids would like,” she said.
“He created an amazing film that has lasted and endured against all odds as it wasn’t popular at the time.”
Julie Dawn Cole last saw the director in October in New York when the cast reunited for the film’s 40th anniversary.
“He was on form – barking orders as he always had done, organizing a photoshoot,” she said.
“I’m glad I saw him last year – it’s one hell of a legacy to leave.”
The Omen screenwriter David Seltzer, who got his break from Mel Stuart at the age of 26, described him as “a mentor by way of drill sergeant, much-feared boss and much-loved friend”.
Born in New York, Mel Stuart had originally aspired to be a composer, but after university decided to instead pursue a career as a filmmaker.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Mel Stuart worked with award-winner David Wolper’s production company to make dozens of documentary films.
Mel Stuart’s films included three editions of The Making of the President, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and the groundbreaking film Wattstax, which focused on Los Angeles’ black Watts community in the aftermath of the 1965 riots.
After leaving the Wolper Organisation in 1977, Mel Stuart went on to independently direct and produce numerous other documentaries such as AFI’s 100 Years-100 Movies, Inside the KGB and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not TV series.
His other features include the 1969 comedy If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, starring Suzanne Pleshette and Ian McShane.
Mel Stuart is survived by his wife, Roberta, and three children.
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