What Happened to Peter Ostrum from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?

Peter Gardner Ostrum (born November 1, 1957) is a former child actor whose only film role was Charlie Bucket in the 1971 motion picture Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Ostrum was born in Dallas, Texas, U.S., but mainly raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland), and was a student at Malvern Elementary School when he was named to the role. After the film Ostrum was offered a three-picture contract, but turned it down; he retired from acting and graduated from North Hunterdon High School in Annandale, New Jersey.

Willy Wonka remains Ostrum's only film credit after he decided that the life of an actor was not for him; instead, he received a veterinary medical degree from Cornell University and is now a successful veterinarian who specializes in cattle and horses in Glenfield, New York.

Ostrum has appeared on the real version of Where Are They Now: Child Actors on VH1.

In February 2009, Ostrum partnered with Dunkin' Donuts to help promote their new alternate slogan "You 'Kin Do It!" in Boston; he helped give out "Charlie Cards" (named for the MBTA'S mascot Charlie) to commuters on Boston's commuter system. Ostrum gave a "Golden Ticket" to one lucky commuter, which gives them unlimited rides on the rail system in 2009 and a year of free Dunkin' Donuts coffee.


Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) was his only film appearance. He later went on to become a veterinarian.

Has two children, Helenka and Leif.

Was offered a three picture contract after Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), but turned it down.

Is a vet to large farm animals (cows and horses) in rural New York state.

Both Denise Nickerson and Julie Dawn Cole admit that they had crushes on him during the time they made Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) together.

Came in first place among males age 40-49 at the Lake Placid Half Marathon in 2001.

He is the youngest of four children by over a decade.

Although born in Dallas, he was raised largely in the Cleveland, Ohio, area, where he first acted in local children's theatre productions.

Attended North Hunterdon Regional High School in Annandale, New Jersey.

Lived in three different cities as a kid: Dallas, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; and Newark, New Jersey.

Lived in Munich, Germany for over half a year while filming Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

Was number 78 on vh1's "100 Greatest Kid Stars" (2005).

Personal Quotes

When the picture was over, it was like it had never happened. I returned to school and by the time it was in theatres I'd changed a lot so I wasn't even recognised much. So, when I was, it was always a nice experience because people like 'Charlie'. He's a nice kid. My parents told me to look on it as an experience, which is what I did....My mom and dad were not at all stage parents. They made sure I had a clear choice about what I did for a living. I'm really grateful to them because being a veterinarian is very gratifying.

[On making Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)]: The entire experience was better than enjoyable. It was really interesting. But I had a chance to see what everyone's job entailed and I knew I didn't want to do any of those things for a living. Including being stars like Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson. When it was over I was anxious to become just another kid again.

[On how he almost returned to performing]: When I made Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), acting was something that interested me. It still does, but not as a profession. The only time I ever considered it again was when I heard they were holding auditions to replace Peter Firth in 'Equus' on Broadway. My thinking was that, perhaps I should at least present myself. Getting the part would have been like lightning striking twice, but I didn't get it. So I continued in school with the same majors - animal husbandry and veterinary medicine.

Do I regret turning down the movie offer? I don't think so. I love the job I am doing right now. Granted it is about as far away from Hollywood as you can get, but I have a feeling of self-satisfaction with it. I don't believe that I made the right choice or the wrong choice. I made a choice that fit what I wanted, and it shaped how life unfolded for me. Would have life been better if I took the movie offer? Maybe, but I'll never know, and it's something I'll never question.



  1. Peter i absolutely loved the film
    i think its a must see film for all the family even now you were a superb
    actor well done you should have got an oscar for it.

  2. I agree should have gotten an oscar! Loved the movie every since I first watched it in 75 and now im 40 and still enjoy watching it!

  3. I believe that you should get at least a star on Hollywood BLVD in California, even if you never get an Oscar, which you should. That was excellent acting, and even as an adult myself, I still really enjoy the acting, dancing, and singing!

  4. It is still my favorite movie of all time, and, even in my 40's, I still uphold to the philosophy that "everything eminates from Willie Wonka"....I use the movie lines daily in quotable conversation. It is such a gem....we will always miss Jack Albertson, but we miss Peter Ostrum (onscreen) as well. Thank you for bringing childlike wonder to all of us, young and old!!!
    Syracuse, N.Y.

  5. I saw the movie when it was first released while visiting my cousins one summer. My aunt "forced" me (LOL) to make a scrap book of my stay with them as we saw all the sights in D.C. I'm the same age as Charlie (Peter Ostrum) & still have that scrapbook & our ticket stubs from the movie & (I think) some sort of promotional Golden Ticket you could get when the movie was released. Always loved the movie, but never imagined that I'd be posting a comment from my cell phone 38 years later after watching the movie streamed through a game console hooked-up to my TV. Technology may have made some amazing advances in those 38 years, but I sure do miss some of the dreams and values that were more common back then (but not all of them).

  6. The movie has always been a favorite one of mine. I love how Charlie was such a good little boy. And it sounds like the real boy (Peter) was great also. It's nice to hear that some parents let there children make up their own minds about what to do. Peter Ostrum sounds like he has a wonderful life doing what he loves and we the people should be happy he was in the film...and let him live the life he wants.

  7. Andy and mollie Chesterfield EnglandDecember 14, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Just watched the film again last night with my daughter and she was asking questions about the actor who played charlie and here i am reading his story on screen. My daughter as both versions of the film and we both think the original is best.Good to see the Peter doing something he enjoys and not worrying about what might have been. He as still got a classic film to be proud of that millions of people have watched

  8. Watching it right now. Mom is singing "cheer up Charlie". Great movie. Great movie.

  9. Great movie. I first saw it in 1989 at 9 years old, and now watch it with my 5 year old who also loves it. Well done.

  10. it is my favorit movie of all time and it is veary veary well done two i love all the songs i even sing a long with it. i bet you had fun makeing that movie

  11. Great movie!! I'm sitting here with my 4 yr old who seems to be enjoying this movie. I watched this movie growing up and it's nice to share and enjoy together.

  12. muck better than the remake
    loved it

  13. Just got done watching C&TCF w/ my husband and 3 1/2 year old daughter..we all love it! Just hearing this movie in the background takes me back to being a child and bringing on those sentimental feelings. Im 42 and still look forward to watching this movie! I still belt out "Cheer up Charlie" every now and then. Peter Ostrum, you are truly a gem-

  14. What a movie,it gives you a warm feeling watching it in winter.i love that movie the first time i watched.me an my 5 kids allways look foward to watching ut you never get bored.england looks so nice an the sweet shops look great i ghess i just miss the old days,wooden doors windows hedges the whole thing.

    Im happy that peter never turned out like just another holywood guy.

    Petee hands up to you i like the choice style an the balls.

    Birmingham england mike porky parry

  15. I love this movie!!! I have it in DVD and when it comes onto foxtel just have to watch.. My 9 year old son also loves it, and I am hoping to get my 7 month old baby girl into it as well. Well done Peter for having a go and l

  16. just watched it with my 5 & 3 year old they loved just as I have since I watched it in grade school the first time I also always quote things from the movie with my siblings for a good laugh it brings us back to when we were kids

  17. I love this movie - have always loved - what a lesson in character and integrity and who doesn't love chocolate?? This is a movie that is owned and loved by myself, my husband and our three boys! Peter did an amazing and authentic job in playing Charlie! On a side note - I have always (since the late 80's) thought Charlie/Peter looked like Jon Bon Jovi as a kid!! ;O) Anyone else agree??

  18. I really love this sentence :)
    Do I regret turning down the movie offer? I don't think so. I love the job I am doing right now. Granted it is about as far away from Hollywood as you can get, but I have a feeling of self-satisfaction with it. I don't believe that I made the right choice or the wrong choice. I made a choice that fit what I wanted, and it shaped how life unfolded for me.

  19. My children adore this movie and watch it over and over. They wanted to know what became of Charlie and now we know. I loved reading them how you are enjoying just living an honest life. Best regards!

  20. Willy wonka was my favorite movie when I was little,& it still is.We had our house robbed & I cried because the movie was in it.We just watched it w/our little girl,shes 3.Now shes going around the house singing the oopa song.So cute! Loved it &happy that you grew up to do something you love

  21. bruce bonkowski
    I miss this Charlie he fit the part I love he a vet but I had hoped he would have done Ch aarlie in willy wonka 2 and could have used him as being older maybe in his early 40's and again did something for as his replacement john depp in my opnion made Charlie llook like he was a idot just way to foolish and if he can get this tell him mhe will be the only actor with the grandpa and mother who really make it one of my classic . it would take Charlie brown the great pumpkin and made linus be played by Vincent price johnny didn't fit in he did great for pirate of the carrribean but the onkly show I can say they found another actor was in home alone 3 that little boy was fun to watch . again good luck peter I proud of you