Historic vessel wins golden ticket to star in Wonka blockbuster

Yarmouth Stream Driftter Lydia Eva takes to the sea for the first time in over two years for sea tri

Great Yarmouth's Lydia Eva has been cast in the new film prequel Wonka and is currently in Lyme Regis preparing for her role. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A floating museum is set to play a starring role in a Hollywood movie tracing the early life of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka.

The Lydia Eva has arrived in Lyme Regis ready to play the passenger steamer that brings young Willy to England in the film directed  by Paul King who made the Paddington movies.

And the guardians of the historic steam drifter say being scouted by Warner Brothers was like winning a golden ticket after being shut by Covid for more than a year.

Yarmouth Stream Driftter Lydia Eva takes to the sea for the first time in over two years for sea tri

The Lydia Eva is a rare survival from the herring fishing heyday and can still sail under her own steam. Movie makers were said to be thrilled to see her engine working. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The 91-year-old vessel, usually moored at Great Yarmouth's South Quay, was towed by tug at the movie makers' expense to the south coast - a journey of four days.

Acting ship's manager Ernie Artis said she was likely to be there until at least the end of October.

Sheringham Little Theatre film clubs - Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in the 1971 film. - Credit: Archant


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Mr Artis said when they were first approached about casting the ship they thought it was a hoax.

Hour of glory! The Lydia Eva, the only surviving herring drifter, proudly leads the Parade of Sail a

Hour of glory! The Lydia Eva, the only surviving herring drifter, proudly leads the Parade of Sail as the 1978 Tall Ships' Race leaves the harbour. - Credit: Archant

By way of audition the film's director and stunt crew visited her in Yarmouth, spending about six hours measuring up for various scenes.

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They were reportedly thrilled to see a video of the engine working, chiming with the bygone era they were  looking to recreate for the prequel movie which stars Timothee Chalamet as young Willy before he opened the famous chocolate factory.

The Lydia Eva has had a tough year and lost several key people.

Acting ship's manager Ernie Artis (third from left) with John Nobbs who died in September 2021, Morris Jackman, and Sean Baker (far right) who died in August 2021. The Lydia Eva's new found fame has given volunteers a boost after a tough year marred by closure and the sad loss of key crew and volunteers. - Credit: supplied by Ernie Artis

"All we know is that she is going to convert her to look like a passenger vessels and that shots are going to be on deck and in the engine room and that all the stunts are being done on board," Mr Artis said.

Pictured: JOHNNY DEPP as Willy Wonka in Warner Bros. Pictures' Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ju

Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in the 2005 Tim Burton version of the story. - Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Ent. In

She was towed as a "dead" ship with no-one on board, although former trust treasurer Mark Waltham is in Lyme Regis to advise the film makers.

Warner Brother's were making a donation to the trust for the use of the herring drifter, which was likely to be "very lucrative."

The casting came as the boat faced extra bills of £60,000 for an annual inspection and survey, and new gangway.

"It is going to give us the money back we have lost," Mr Artis said, adding that the trust was thrilled the boat was set to have its moment in the movie spotlight, the exposure likely to win it a new crop of fans.

The filming schedule means the Lydia Eva and Mincarlo Charitable Trust will have to delay the scattering of ashes for valued supporter Ivor Halsey who died this year. The trust has also lost key crew and volunteers Sean Baker, Les Summerfield and John Nobbs.

Made in Great Yarmouth

Hollywood is the biggest and most influential  movie industry in the world, as well as the oldest, releasing more than 700 English language films a year.

And Great Yarmouth has enjoyed its fair share of moments in the cinema spotlight.

Last year windfarm vessel Iceni Revenge appeared in another Warner Bros Hollywood blockbuster, Tenet. A sequence involving the craft features in the movie trailer

Gorleston was the location for the Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis rom com Yesterday (2019), Stephen Merchant's Fighting with my Family (2019) Malice in Wonderland (2009) and I've Gotta Horse (1965).

Norfolk as a whole has seen a good slice of movie action with at least nine blockbusters shot in the county.




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