Owning The 1990s
In the 1990s, Mara Wilson was one of the most successful child actresses of the entire decade. Mara was born in 1987, and despite her age and relative inexperience, Mara exhibited the ability to act and connect with audiences in a natural way. It was this ability that would help propel her to child stardom as a young actress.
Hitting The Big Time
Mara Wilson started out the way that a lot of young actors and actresses do: by performing in television commercials. From there, she got noticed by powerful people that wanted to see what else she could do. She had a unique ability to look cute, innocent, but mischievous all at the same time. Soon, she landed her big break in a film featuring Robin Williams.
Acting With A Legend
Anybody who lived through the 1990s is sure to remember exactly what that movie was. It was the classic comedy Mrs. Doubtfire, which memorably featured Robin Williams cross-dressing as an elderly female nanny in an effort to spend more time with his children amidst a troubling divorce and custody battle situation. Mara was very lucky to land a role in such a well-loved film.
Audiences Loved Her
In Mrs. Doubtfire, Mara Wilson played the youngest daughter of Williams’ character. As such, she basically had to be cute and provide a little bit of comic relief. Obviously, Mara was more than up to the task, and audiences loved her in the role when they saw the finished film. Hollywood enjoyed the performance as well, and she was cast in a remake of Miracle on 34th Street.
Picking Up Momentum
By 1996, Mara had really seen her career take off. She was not only able to play Natalie Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire, but she also made guest appearances in a couple of TV shows. She played Amelia in an episode of Bob and appeared as Nikki Petrova in several episodes of the hit show Melrose Place. Aside from her role in Miracle on 34th Street, she also starred in the TV movie A Time to Heal.
Ready To Shine
So Mara Wilson entered 1996 feeling very confident in her abilities and future. At nine years old, she was able to play more substantial roles and got the opportunity of a lifetime to prove herself. Child actors rarely get the chance to play the lead role in a film, but that’s exactly the opportunity that Mara got when she landed the biggest role in her acting career so far.
Role Of A Lifetime
The role was playing Matilda in the film of the same name, which was based on a famous Roald Dahl novel. Mara was over the moon about the chance to star in the film version of Matilda, as she said that the book was very popular in her home and they would sometimes act out the funnier scenes at their house. She was extremely excited to bring the character to life.
Shocking News Revealed
Unfortunately, there are times when personal problems or family troubles can dwarf even the greatest professional successes. This was a lesson that young Mara was about to learn the hard way, sadly. While she prepared for the role of her life and was still working on her studies with a tutor as well, she had to process the fact that her mother, Suzie was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Showing Her Strength
It must have been a tough time for young Mara Wilson, as she had to go through day-to-day life on a bustling movie set without her mother’s support once Suzie was hospitalized due to her condition. Many adults would even struggle with the responsibility of holding it together during such a personal trial, but Mara was exemplary in her dedication and strength.
In Need Of Help
Of course, when most people deal with such difficult situations, they have to lean on those that they are closest with for the support that they need in order to cope. Young Mara was certainly no different. For an actor or actress, coworkers can make a sort of family that can help them get through not only the trials of filming, but deal with other problems, as well. This was no different on the set of Matilda.
Years later, Mara would confirm that her fellow actors and actresses were instrumental in helping her cope with the difficult time. In her 2016 autobiography, she wrote that Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, who played her parents on screen, were wonderfully supportive during the entire filming experience, which was a kind gesture that she has never forgotten.
A New Aunt And Uncle
Within the pages of her book, Mara Wilson writes at length about how Danny and Rhea, who were husband and wife in real life, became like her uncle and aunt. “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,” she wrote. “It felt very familial.”
Sad Turn Of Events
Sadly, things did not turn around for Mara’s mother, Suzie. Just six months after filming finished on Matilda, Suzie fell very ill and died. Her battle with cancer had come to a devastating end, and a talented little girl now found herself without a mother. When you add the pressures and the very adult world of Hollywood stardom to the equation, it was certainly a difficult time for Mara.
Mara slowed down her ascent in the acting world following the death of her mother. She made a few television appearances and played roles in the films A Simple Wish and Thomas and the Magic Railroad, but once she hit her teens, Mara said that she had lost the desire to act. She would ultimately take a break from acting that would last over a decade.
A Sad Daughter
Although Mara was very proud of her work in Matilda, especially because it was based on a book that her mother adored, the film also made her sad. She was depressed about the fact that her mother would never actually get to see the film because she had passed away too soon. More than anything, she wished that her mom had seen her performance. However, co-star Danny DeVito had a surprising secret for her.
She Saw Mara’s Movie
Danny DeVito not only played Mara Wilson’s father in the movie, but he also was a producer on the film, which gave him special access to an early print of the film. He actually brought that version of Matilda to the hospital where Suzie was while she was extremely sick. Therefore, her mother had gotten to see her performance before she died.
Incredibly Kind People
All of these years later, Mara Wilson is still grateful for everything that Danny and Rhea Perlman did for her and her mother during the difficult time. “They were incredibly kind people,” Wilson said. “He and Rhea were just like fun uncle, fun aunt and the kindest, most wonderful people, and I really owe them forever for all the good things they did for me while my mother was sick.”
Her Mother Loved It
Once Mara Wilson told the story in her book, the press was amazed and wanted to know more. During an appearance with Lorraine Kelly on British TV in 2017, Mara shared the story and also talked about the reaction that her mother had when she got to see the movie in the hospital. “She loved it,” said Mara of Suzie’s reaction to the film.
Should She Have Quit?
Mara resumed acting with an appearance in a short film in 2011 and had since appeared in several TV series and the film Billie Bob Joe. Still, she confessed in her interview with Kelly that she sometimes wondered if she should have quit acting permanently when her mother passed away. “Sometimes I feel I should have stopped acting after Matilda and gone out on a high,” she said.
Beginning Of The End
It’s possible that Mara’s conflicted feelings about acting after the admitted high of playing Matilda contributed to her difficulties. Critics can be very harsh regardless of the circumstances, and Mara’s work in the widely panned film Thomas and the Magic Railroad in 2000 definitely didn’t help her career any. Neither did the long break after that movie.
Mara has kept busy in recent years, however. She has had a recurring voice role in the hit Netflix animated series BoJack Horseman and has also been bitten by the writing bug. She enjoys putting pen to paper and has also appeared on stage and been heard giving her thoughts on a variety of subjects in online broadcasts around the internet.
Looking Towards The Future
In 2013, Mara Wilson revealed to Parade magazine that although she still enjoys acting – especially on stage in theater productions – she finds the experience “exhausting and so taxing.” She went on to say that though there are parts that interest her as an actress, “they’re not as interesting to me as writing.” Sounds like she’s found a new career!
Focusing On Writing
Mara Wilson was very successful with her autobiography, which was cleverly titled Where Am I Now? However, Mara certainly won’t limit herself to that type of writing. She also has written everything from blogs to non-fiction essays and short stories. Although Mara Wilson still looks back fondly at her acting career, she seems content to move forward without focusing on life in front of the camera.
A Long-Awaited Reunion
In 2013, Mara Wilson got together with her castmates from the classic film Matilda. It was a fun experience for an actress that embraces her past instead of running from it. It was also a chance for her to pal around with a lot of the people she grew close to on the set. Of course, that list is headlined by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.
A Lasting Link
In the movie business, it may be difficult to make authentic connections, but something about Mara Wilson made Danny and Rhea want to help her during a hard time. The gift that Danny gave Mara by providing a copy of Matilda to her dying mother is a priceless present, indeed. This has certainly sparked an undying connection between the two that continues to this day.