1988 was a good year for British author Roald Dahl. He published one of his masterworks, and most popular stories of all time – Matilda. In that book, the reader meets Matilda, who is a brilliant young girl whose family neglects and mistreats until Matilda decides to turn the tables on her cruel family and play pranks on them. After some time of doing this, Matilda starts to learn that she possesses special powers that are fantastical and almost magical.
The story of Matilda was beloved by parents and children alike and remained one of the strongest books in the Roald Dahl collection. The book made it clear to young readers that no matter your circumstances in life, you have the power to improve them and make a difference.
Eight years after the book hit the bookshelves, Danny Devito adapted the book into a feature film that starred then 9-year-old Mara Wilson as the title role.
Mara was already famous for her breakout roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, and Miracle on 34th Street rose to new levels of stardom because of Devito’s 1996 feature film. For years, people would recognize Mara Wilson as the face of Matilda.
While things looked rosy on the surface for the young star, Mara’s personal life was anything but. During that time, Mara lost her beloved mother to cancer and was heading down into a bottomless spiral.
Although Mara was grieving, she still retains her long-time love of books and reading and did find some solace in her favorite characters.
Mara’s mother was instrumental in getting her the role for Matilda. She encouraged the young actress to go for it with gusto, and when Danny DeVito offered her the role, it was Mara’s mother who urged her to take it.
However, Mara would never have guessed that DeVito and his then-wife Rhea Perlman would go on to play such an instrumental role in her upbringing.
Mara’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 while they were filming Matilda. It was a devastating blow for the young actress. And DeVito and Perlman offered to babysit Mara anytime her parents needed to go to the hospital.
Although filming wrapped, DeVito continued to extend a helping hand. And when Suzie, her mother, died on April 26, 1996, Mara was lost.
In her new memoir, which is dedicated to her mother, Mara Wilson explains that DeVito was a godsend when she needed support.
One thing that DeVito did that was truly kind was to make sure that Suzie got to see the final cut of Matilda before she passed away. He traveled to her hospital room and brought a copy of the movie before it hit theaters, and watched it with her.
Knowing that Mara felt some peace of mind because her mother had been instrumental in getting her to play the part.
Even though DeVito played an evil father in the film, he proved he was a generous spirit and warm soul off-set.
What do you think about this behind-the-scenes story from the star of Matilda?
Every time you share an AWM story, you help build a home for a disabled veteran.