At 12 years old, Peter Ostrum was selected to play kind-hearted Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Though he rose to prominence from his portrayal in the Gene Wilder-led fantasy film, he opted to leave Hollywood soon after. Find out what happened to the former child star and get details on where he is now. 

What Happened to ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ Actor Peter Ostrum? 

Talent agents immediately knew Peter was the perfect pick to play Charlie after seeing him partake in theater productions in Ohio. The young talent and his costars began filming in Munich in the summer of 1970 as he was approaching the seventh grade. The film was released in June 1971 to favorable reviews from critics and viewers alike who were captivated by the sugary fantasy that was brought to life on screen. 

While Gene had already appeared in a number of classics and earned two Academy Award nominations, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory marked Peter’s acting debut. But just as quickly as the student found fame, he decided acting wasn’t the career path he wanted to follow. Peter’s stint in Hollywood ended with the whimsical musical, marking his only acting credit on IMDb to date. 

What Happened to 'Willy Wonka’ Actor Peter Ostrum? Life Update

Though he walked away from the spotlight, the former child star admitted that there was one time he considered a Hollywood resurgence. 

“The only time I ever considered it again was when I heard they were holding auditions to replace Peter Firth in Equus on Broadway,” he once said, per IMDb. “My thinking was that perhaps I should at least present myself. Getting the part would have been like lightning striking twice, but I didn’t get it. So, I continued in school with the same majors — animal husbandry and veterinary medicine.”

After Gene’s death in August 2016 due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, Peter paid tribute to his former costar. 

“It’s kind of like losing a parent,” the retired actor told Variety at the time. “You know it’s going to happen, but it’s still a shock. He was not in good health at the end, and it was not unexpected by any means, but when it happens it hits you like, ‘Gene is gone and there will never be anyone like him again.’”

Where Is Peter Ostrum Now? 

Though the performer seemingly disappeared from Hollywood, he has spoken out about his experience filming the classic during rare appearances over the years. “The film industry just wasn’t for me,” he shared during a November 2016 speech at the University of Missouri.  

What Happened to 'Willy Wonka’ Actor Peter Ostrum? Life Update
Photo by ITV/Shutterstock

After his acting career came to an end, Peter found a new passion — taking care of animals. He graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984. Since then, he’s put his degree to good use, working as a veterinary practitioner in New York where he currently resides with his family. Peter married his wife, Loretta Lepkowski, in 1987. Together they welcomed two children, Helenka and Leif.