Johnny Depp was trending on Twitter Friday morning, but it wasn’t because his rabid fans were once again trying to salvage his reputation by fomenting attacks against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.

Instead, Depp was handily losing an informal Twitter poll over who was the best Willy Wonka: Him or the late, great comic actor Gene Wilder.

To many responding to that question, the choice was simple: Wilder, of course.

The debate was launched by a tweet posted by web TV host, “Bad” Brad Berkwitt. The debate also made Wilder, who died in 2016 at age 83, a top trending topic.

 

Wilder was known for the comedy classics “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.” He played the titular candy maker Willy Wonka in a beloved 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Depp, 58, reprised the role in a 2005 remake directed by Tim Burton.

Judging from responses that poured into Twitter, Willy Wonka aficionados clearly prefer Wilder’s interpretation: No contest. Gene Wilder. pic.twitter.com/8o6LLvvcPC

— 🦋Chloe 🩸🦷🌊📝📖🦋🐝🥊 (@ChloePolitiCat) September 17, 2021

Is this a joke?

There is ZERO comparison. Should’ve never been remade.

Gene Wilder. Duh. https://t.co/pnQBWnUjkL

— Jamie Lynn Vest 🍭 (@_CallMeJamie) September 17, 2021

When people comment that Johnny Depp was a better Willy Wonka than Gene Wilder … pic.twitter.com/itG4Y8giNw

— teatime75 (@teatime75) September 17, 2021

There were some who praised Depp’s version and said his interpretation was more true to Dahl’s idea of the character.

But there also were self-described Depp fans who agreed that Wilder was the superior Willy Wonka:

Both the book and film versions of the Willy Wonka story follow a poor child named Charlie Bucket who finds a Golden Ticket in a chocolate bar, inviting him to visit the reclusive candy maker’s legendary chocolate factory, along with four other children from around the world.

When the 1971 film was released, it was not a box-office hit, and it initially received mixed reviews. Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin praised it as “lively and enjoyable” and singled out Wilder for his “real star turn.” Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times was more effusive, writing that the movie was “delightful, funny, scary, exciting, and, most of all, a genuine work of imagination.”

In subsequent decades, the film built a following through repeat TV broadcasts and home video sales. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly ranked it 25th in the “Top 50 Cult Movies” of all time, and it now holds a 91% approval rating.

Two years later, director Burton drafted his favorite leading man, Depp, to reprise the role of Willy Wonka in his lavish, $150 million production. This version made $475 million at the global box office and received mostly positive reviews, but critics were not so thrilled with Depp’s interpretation of Willy Wonka. The film has an 83% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating.

“What was Depp thinking of?” Ebert asked. “In ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ he was famously channeling Keith Richards, which may have primed us to look for possible inspirations for this performance.”

Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post blasted the film, saying its “strenuous efforts at becoming a camp classic begin to wear thin.” She also excoriated Depp’s latest effort to be as eccentric as possible.

“The cumulative effect isn’t pretty,” she wrote. “Nor is it kooky, funny, eccentric or even mildly interesting. Indeed, throughout his fey, simpering performance, Depp seems to be straining so hard for weirdness that the entire enterprise begins to feel like those excruciating occasions when your parents tried to be hip.”

Wilder chose not to see Burton’s film. In 2007, he said in an interview that he liked Johnny Depp “very much” as an actor, but the promotional clips he saw “put me off.” In 2013, Wilder was more severe about the new adaptation, calling it “an insult.” 

Since 2005, Depp’s movie star popularity and bankability have plummeted, as he turned in one too many eccentric, self-indulgent performances. His public image also has been overwhelmed by scandals and legal battles surrounding his on-set behavior, personal life and tumultuous marriage to Heard.

Disney ended its long association with Depp after he lost a high-profile defamation trial against the publishers of The Sun, which labeled him a “wife beater.” The trial included testimony about Depp’s abuse of drugs and out-of-control behavior during his marriage to Heard, which ended in 2016.

Depp acknowledged in an August interview that he’s been boycotted by Hollywood, but he appears to have found consolation in his vast legion of social media fans, who have supported him during his legal fights against Heard. Every few weeks, they manage to get his name trending on Twitter as they post images from their favorite Depp movie or rip into Heard.

Depp has called them his “soldiers” and “warriors,” but with the Willy Wonka debate, these “warriors” didn’t appear to rush out to post on Depp’s behalf:

We all know #GeneWilder was a better Willy Wonka than #JohnnyDepp. There is no comparison.

— Hoittonī 🎃🍬🩸 (@wanttobeleavin) September 17, 2021

Insulting to Gene Wilder to even ask this question. pic.twitter.com/ngDPR1zDw6

— Steven Bell (@alchemypotato) September 17, 2021

Gene Wilder trounces Johnny Depp in Willy Wonka debate

I gotta go with the crowd here, it’s a no brainer.

Gene, hands down!

𝑾𝒉𝒐’𝒔 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒑𝒊𝒄𝒌?
𝑳𝒆𝒕 𝒖𝒔 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒐𝒘..