Heartfelt Story Of Danny DeVito And His Wife Caring For The Young "Matilda" Actress While Her Mother Was Gravely Ill

Date August 10, 2018

One of the most famous children's fantasy films, Matilda (1996), which is an adaptation of a surreal novel by the legendary Robert Dahl, had even more going on behind the scenes, and its story is incredibly touching.

Young star

Mara Wilson, who played the lead on Matilda, was one of the biggest child actresses of the 90s. She broke into the scene after starring in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Miracle on 34th Street (1994). Everyone absolutely loved Mara for her mature performances, although she was only 6 years old when her career began.

© Miracle on 34th Street (1994) / Twentieth Century Fox

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Although young, Mara knew she wanted to play Matilda, since her mom used to read the book to her and they both loved this story. Danny DeVito, who went on to direct and star in the movie, saw something special in the little actress and gave her the lead role.

© Matilda (1996) / TriStar Pictures

Little did Danny and Mara know that this fateful cooperation will have to go through a terrible tragedy and stand the test of time.

Incredible support

Danny DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman, who also starred in Matilda, immediately felt the connection with little Mara and knew they would have to be her second parents during the production. As fate would have it, Wilson needed them more than they expected.

© Matilda (1996) / TriStar Pictures

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When Mara was working on the movie, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a devastating time for the 8-year-old girl, but luckily, DeVito and Perlman were there for her. They cared for Wilson and looked after her whenever her real parents needed to be in the hospital. 

In 2016, Mara published a memoir "Where Am I Now?", in which she detailed her experience with Danny DeVito:

I was eight years old. It was very hard. And they were very nice. While my mom was sick and in the hospital, they would invite me over and take care of me, and get my mind off things. I felt very familial.

© Matilda (1996) / TriStar Pictures

Wilson will be forever grateful not only for the support she received, but also for the closure DeVito provided her with. Mara's mother passed away before the movie was completed. She was especially struck by this fact, since it was her mom's dream to see her daughter playing Matilda. Years later, Wilson found out that Danny personally went to see her mom and showed her a rough cut of the film. It was then that Mara could let go and know her mom got her final wish.


Leaving it all behind

After Matilda, Mara Wilson went to star in A Simple Wish (1997) and Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000), after which she made a decision to quit acting. In 2013, Mara told Parade she has no plans to return to the big screen:

I do act sometimes in friends’ projects, but when I do, it’s just for fun. It is actually a hobby for me now.


Today, she's focusing on her writing and still gets recognized on the streets, owing to her early roles. 

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