'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' actress Denise Nickerson dies at 62

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Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at 62.

Nickerson suffered a stroke that left her in need of full-time care in June 2018. Her son, Josh, and his wife, Jasmine, kept her fans updated on her condition through a Facebook page. They shared Wednesday that she wouldn’t be receiving any additional treatment, after having experienced a “major medical emergency” on Monday.

“They just took off all the equipment. None of it was helping, but making her only more uncomfortable,” the family wrote. “We’re telling her it’s okay to let go.”

The family later announced the actress’s death, writing “she’s gone.”

In August 2016, after Willy Wonka star Gene Wilder died, Nickerson spoke with People about working with him when she was 13. She recalled that the child actors were introduced to Wilder as Wonka and that she found him to be “tender-hearted.”

She especially remembered the scene depicting the tour group’s psychedelic boat ride.

“I was quite surprised with that, there was no acting involved,” Nickerson said. “My chin dropped, hit the ground and never came back up. I had not anticipated that, it was not in the script that he was going to go off on that tangent. I was completely speechless. I thought, nobody is going to come and see this movie this [Willy Wonka character] is a nutjob. But good thing I’m not a producer, right?”

Denise Nickerson, in the dark dress, and co-stars filmed "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" on Oct. 8, 1970. (Photo: Arthur Sidey/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Denise Nickerson, in the dark dress, and co-stars filming Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on Oct. 8, 1970. (Photo: Arthur Sidey/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Nickerson, of course, portrayed Beauregarde, a competitive gum chewer who defies Wonka’s wishes and nabs a piece of the new type of gum he’s working on — it tastes just like a three-course meal that concludes with blueberry pie — and balloons into a giant blueberry. To her car salesman father’s horror, Wonka instructs the Oompa Loompas to roll her off to the Juicing Room.

In addition to the popular adaptation of the Roald Dahl book, Nickerson’s credits include 130 episodes of ‘70s children’s show The Electric Company and 30 episodes of late 1960s horror fantasy series, Dark Shadows. She guest-starred on Flipper and The Brady Bunch, and she appeared in Child of Glass, an installment of The Magical World of Disney in 1978.

After that year, she left show business, although she still participated in Willy Wonka cast reunions.

Wonka co-star Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt, was among those sharing their condolences.

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