It was in honor of the explorer Roald Amundsen that on September 13, 1916, both Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene chose the name of their first child. Roald Dahl was an explorer himself, an explorer of the narrative possibilities of the tale with structures that later made their way into movies and television. Fascinating film scripts were also formed from his fist, but above all a number of icons that are now part of popular culture and collective knowledge.
His life was an unfinished collection of bittersweet moments that nurtured his stories and his view of childhood as a prison of prohibitions and injustices perpetuated by the adult world. From various perspectives, Roald Dahl viewed adulthood as a threat. Either from the exemplification of a stage that entails responsibility, such as running a factory. Or a threat in the form of terrible magical beings who sought to destroy children by turning them into mice. Or simply, in a more down-to-earth situation, like a dictatorship established in a school for young ladies.
In whatever form, Roald Dahl’s stories always borrowed from black humor, irony, and perverse situations, his best ways to construct fables that were generally directed at adults rather than children. Roald Dahl’s passage through the cinema, not only occurred through adaptations, but also through contributions that the same author and veteran of World War II configured for the big screen.
Roald Dahl and his time in the movies
007: You Only Live Twice (1967)
Most widely recognized as a novelist and author of children’s stories, Roald Dahl also made compilations of adult horror stories on occasion. In addition to that, in the 1960s he had a brief flirtation with Hollywood movies and industry. During those years he was in charge of writing the scripts for two film adaptations, curiously both on the writings of Ian Fleming, the famous author of James Bond.
His first foray into the world of cinema was precisely thanks to a secret agent film. 007: You Only Live Twice was the fifth film in the James Bond saga and the first written by Roald Dahl. Harold Jack Bloom originally wrote the script for the film, but it was later rejected by the producers. Dahl being a close friend of Fleming got the job, but he almost completely changed what had already been outlined by Bloom and by Fleming’s novel itself.
You Only Live Twice was the first James Bond film to freely adapt the original stories of whoever created the secret agent. Roald Dahl dabbled in films with a script slightly inspired by the source material, but with entirely new adventures designed by him.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
The second of his contributions to the cinema was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a film that starred Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes. A musical in shape, about an eccentric inventor who manages to turn an ordinary old racing car into a vehicle with the ability to fly and float on water. Thanks to the benefits of this car, the protagonists can travel to another world where there are castles inhabited by pirates. Dahl adapted this story from another Fleming novel.
Finally Dahl got his hands on the adaptation of his own novel about the most eccentric chocolatier of all. The classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory directed by Mel Stuart and starring Gene Wilder, had the script by the same author, thus ensuring that the adaptation was faithful to its original story, something that would give you headaches with adaptations of his works, made by other people.
Roald Dahl’s works made into movies
From the time they were written and printed, Dahl’s stories were popular, but when they reached the movies they reached a level of popularity that has positioned them in the collective memory until the end of time. Filmmakers such as the aforementioned Mel Stuart, Tim Burton, Danny De Vito, Henry Selick and even Wes Anderson contributed to this. These are the movies whose stories come from the mind of Roald Dahl.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The first adaptation of this story to the cinema with a script by Dahl himself. It was a faithful story compared to the novel, especially since it was the same author who was behind it.
The Witches (1990)
In 1991 Nicolas Roeg made this film with Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling and Rowan Atkinson as the main characters. Although the film received critical acclaim, Dahl himself was unhappy with the adaptation, especially with regard to the outcome. Which is why he tried to boycott the premiere by standing outside the theater with a megaphone trying to convince people not to see it.
By 1996, Roald Dahl had already passed away, so he could not see the achievement of Danny De Vito in his foray as a director. Matilda is the story of an anti-system girl who shuns a school dictatorship perpetuated by an evil principal. Dahl himself during his childhood attended a similar boarding school where tutors beat and punished children excessively for the little antics of age. Matilda is her way of putting a twist on her own childhood story.
Jim and the Giant Peach (1996)
The first time Tim Burton approached Dahl’s world was with this movie. Although he only served as producer, his style was present under the direction of Henry Selick. The most striking thing about James and the Giant Peach is that it is a hybrid between live action and stop motion animation.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
The world of Roald Dahl matched like a glove with the aesthetics of Tim Burton, so when Warner announced the intentions of making a new adaptation of the work, with the vision of the aforementioned filmmaker, many were excited. Fortunately the result was successful and this film is remembered as one of the most fascinating adventures of the Burton-Depp duo, who played the eccentric Willy Wonka.
The fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The first animation that Wes Anderson made for the cinema was a film based on a Roal Dahl story. This film starring an impressive cast – George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep – received critical acclaim for its correct exposition of the story and the craftsmanship that existed in its making.
The BFG: The Giant Good Friend (2016)
Steven Spielberg was encouraged to carry out an adaptation of one of the author’s stories. With a cross between live action and motion capture, The BFG was a great blockbuster with Mark Rylance in the big role and with music, of course, by the good John Williams. It might go unnoticed at the box office and critics, but it is a well-intentioned contribution that brought the story to younger generations.
The Witches (2020)
Recently a new adaptation of the author’s most famous book was carried out. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and directed by Anne Hathaway, this film saw its commercial debut interrupted by the necessities caused by the pandemic. However, the film arrived via digital platforms with a tepid response from both critics and the public. You can read the review of Cinema PREMIERE here.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Witches Matilda Roald Dahl
Luis Angel H Mora My letter from Hogwarts never arrived, so I focused my life on the cinema. I like writing, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and the parties I get to be an astrologer. John Williams and The Killers musicalize the drama of my life.