I’m just going to throw this out there as a means of comparison. Wilder’s Willy Wonka, though part of a somewhat saccharine movie that Roald Dahl eventually disavowed himself of, was a masterpiece of understatement. Funny, touching, poignant, powerful, he brought Wonka to life in a way that Johnny Depp can only dream of. You could tell he was eccentric, and perhaps more than a tad crazy, but Wilder never overplayed it. Granted, they are very different films, but Depp doesn’t know how to underplay a scene. He plays the same character in every one of Tim Burton’s films. When you see one of his films, you see Johnny Depp. When you watch Wilder, you see Wilder, but you don’t care, because you are seeing the brilliance of the man in a role. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t necessarily a great film, but Wilder’s performance was sheer brilliance.
These are my favorite scenes from the film.