The diminutive Oompa-Loompas in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sing and dance and concoct delectable, often dangerous treats. If you count them while the film runs, you will come up with 165, give or take an Oompa here or a Loompa there. But in the making of the movie, one actor, Deep Roy, played them all.
Roy has been in show biz for 30 years now, throwing his four-foot, four-inch frame into a variety of roles and costumes. He was an Ewok in a Star Wars film and a gorilla in another Burton remake, Planet of the Apes.
His Oompa-Loompas look exactly the same in Charlie, but the digital tricks were kept to a minimum. Roy outlined how it worked recently in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, after noting that Burton had originally asked him to play only five Oompas.
"But five Oompas quickly turned into 165 -- and I did each one individually myself," Roy said. "For example, there are 21 Oompas in the foreground during the first song, and as I acted out each one we'd bring in professional dancers [as stand-ins]because I couldn't do all 21 at the same time. Tim would come and watch the 20 dancers rehearse with me, and then I'd [switch and perform the other roles] Tim would say to me, 'You're the hardest-working man in show biz.' "
Roy had to watch his weight as the filming progressed, to maintain the illusion, and spent as long as a month rehearsing some of the elaborate musical numbers.
Those ensemble set pieces involve the Oompa-Loompas singing somewhat sadistically about the departure of each failed contestant in Wonka's bizarre etiquette test.
Roy, who was born in Nigeria to Indian parents, insisted that Burton include a Bollywood-style number and got his wish in the farewell song to Augustus Gloop.
"It's a fast-moving number -- and colourful," Roy said in the magazine interview. "When I first saw my red costume for the song, I thought I was going to be driving with the Ferrari racing-car team."
The first film adaptation, with Gene Wilder, steered away from the lyrics in Dahl's book for the Oompa-Loompa songs. This new one sticks more doggedly to the original words, and once again the Oompas' performance is the result of multitasking. Danny Elfman provided all of the voices, overdubbing himself repeatedly to create a chorus.
"We didn't want it to feel like a Broadway musical, where adult characters would begin singing their feelings," Elfman told The New York Times. "We felt the only characters who should ever sing would be the Oompa-Loompas. They're this weird tribe; their world was very musical."