Diana Sowle is most known for her famous role as Mrs. Bucket in 19711’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. MediaMikes recently had a chance to speak with Diana about her role on the film and she took us on a trip down memory lane.
Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally get the role in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”?
Diana Sowle: Well I basically auditioned for it. My husband and I were living in Germany at the time. My husband worked for the government. I have been producing plays and we toured in what were known as the America houses. They are like cultural centers. They were just finding out who was around in Germany. One day, I got a call-in to audition for it and that was it.
Mike Gencarelli: Did you have any prior signing experience since you had to sing in the film?
Diana Sowle: Yes. I had a little cabaret show that I had done. I did that for different army installations and that kind of thing. In the states, I was also involved in several different theaters.
Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your where you shot your scenes for the film?
Diana Sowle: Charlie’s house is actually a set at the Bavaria studio. It was built there. The place where I did the washing was an actual location. I do not recall if it was an actually wash area though prior. It was just an old building in a section of Munich.
MG: Did you ever visit the Chocolate factory set aka “Pure Imagination” room?
DS: Yes, as a matter of fact I did. When they were building it, I remember thinking how much I would like to see it. So, they let me come over one day with my family. It was very attractive looking. I do not remember much details. They might have still be working on it at the time I visited. I remember the Wonka car though. I believe I got to see most of the sets during the shoot.
MG: How was your experience working with the rest of the cast?
DS: I didn’t work with many other people from the cast. I mostly worked with Charlie (Peter Ostrum) and Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson). Jack was such a pleasant man. He made an effort to get to know us. Since we lived in Germany for quite a while, my German was good enough to get around. I would go around with him. He would always have jokes and sometimes it is hard to translate a joke into another language [laughs]. He was an extremely pleasant man to be around. Peter was also very charming. I didn’t get to know the older grandparents. They were in the scene with me. But when we were on the set, there was always so much to do and I couldn’t socialize much.
MG: Tell us about your career in the years following “Willy Wonka”?
DS: The film was finished in 1970. We gave back to the States in 1971 and that is actually when I first saw the movie. I saw it at a local theater. It didn’t really get good reviews was it was released. Back then, I thought too bad this would have been a nice opportunity. I sort of closed the window on it at that point. I thought “Oh well, you do things and they don’t always turn out”. Then we went back to Germany in 1975 until 1980. When we came back to the States, I think that is when they started showing the movie on the TV. I think when that happened there was suddenly much more interest in it. One fellow I met told me a really sweet story once. He mentioned that he and his father were watching it and his mother came in and said it was time for him to go to bed. His father said he can’t right now, “We have to finish watching this”. It was a great moment he had with his father shared that he remembers. I always remember that cute story. When I moved back to the States in 1980, I got back in touch with agencies that I had worked for. I did little things. I was in a few training films and other little roles but at least I was working. I remember I played an FBI agent in something. In 1988, I got into a show at the Kennedy Center called “Shear Madness”. It is always touring and always playing throughout the country. It is a very popular show. I was in and out of that for about 20 years. I actually just finished the Spring cast show. It just ended June 17th. It is very nice. This past role, I played the role of Mrs. Shubert. She just gets older and older and older [laughs]. I am always delighted when they ask me to come back and be part of the cast. I did also have a tiny role in “Clear and Present Danger”. I play a housekeeper in the film and I find a woman that was murdered. I was just glad to be working.
MG: What made you lend your voice to the popular video game “Fallout 3”?
DS: Oh that’s right. I had a voice demo tape at my agency. I was categorized under seniors for my voice. They wanted an older voice for the game. I play an old grandma type but I actually play about three different roles in it. I loved doing that it was wonderful. The main benefit is that you get to sit down when you work. I hope they do another one and call me back for it, that would be great.
MG: Last year was your first appearance at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, did you enjoy that and do you plan to attend future events?
DS: Yeah I did. There were many people who attended. Some of the stars from the TV shows, I was unfamiliar with though. When we lived in Germany, they didn’t have a lot of the programs that were popular in the States during the 60’s and 70’s. At the convention, I met a bunch of fans who were familiar with the movie. It was fun. They paid you for your autograph. It was great. Everyone was very nice. They were going to have another show out in California. We decided it was such a long distance and decided not to go. Maybe I will attend another one some day.