Willy Wonka director Mel Stuart dies at 83

Mel Stuart Mel Stuart began his career making documentaries

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Mel Stuart, the director of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 83.

His family said he died at his Beverly Hills home after suffering from cancer.

He began his career mainly directing documentaries. The 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl's book was Stuart's second feature film.

He 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, 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.

Paris Themmen, Denise Nickerson, Mel Stuart, Julie Dawn Cole and Rusty Goffe Julie Dawn Cole (second right), who played Veruca Salt, met up with Stuart and the cast at a reunion in 2011

Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt in the movie, told the BBC she had "fond memories" of working with 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."

The actress 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, organising a photoshoot," she said.

"I'm glad I saw him last year - it's one hell of a legacy to leave."

Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Gene Wilder starred in the lead role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

The Omen screenwriter David Seltzer, who got his break from 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, the director had originally aspired to be a composer, but after university decided to instead pursue a career as a filmmaker.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Stuart worked with award-winner David Wolper's production company to make dozens of documentary films.

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, 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.

He is survived by his wife, Roberta, and three children.

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