Remember “Matilda?” Even if you weren’t a kid when the movie came out, it’s hard not to appreciate all the weird, wackiness that director Danny DeVito, writer Robin Swicord, and then-child actress Mara Wilson gave to Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. The classic graced theaters 20 years ago today, which is why Thrillist recently spoke to the team that brought it to us to reveal some fun behind-the-scenes tidbits.
1. DeVito made “Matilda” so scary that it actually terrified Times critic Janet Maslin. Mara Wilson, who played Matilda, stated herself that she was scared as well:
“I do remember feeling a little scared when I read the script. A little scared.”
2. The actress who played Miss Trunchbull is really, really nice in real life. Wilson has even said that people don’t believe her when she says so:
“People don’t believe me, but Pam Ferris is the kindest, gentlest human being you will ever meet. She’s so good at it. She just disappears into that part.”
3. Mara Wilson, then 8, contributed to the feel of the movie. Wilson explained:
“On ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ I was actually learning how everything worked for the first time. On Miracle [on 34th Street] I was the one kid, so everything needed to be taken so seriously. On Matilda though, I felt creatively involved. I designed the dolls that Matilda has in the movie. That was Danny’s idea.”
4. A lot of the scenes with all the kids were actually real. Wilson confirmed herself:
“The scene where we storm the Trunchbull out of Crunchem Hall — that was a lot of fun. It looks like anarchy, and it kind of was. It was all of us just throwing stuff at Pam. And filming the montage at the end with Embeth [Davidtz]. We actually did get to have a picnic, and we actually did get to roller-blade in the living room, and we actually did get to eat chocolate. And that was really fun.”
5. Mara Wilson’s mother died after a battle with breast cancer after the film’s production was finalized. The movie allowed Wilson to get through her the difficult period:
“I didn’t know [at the time]. She was so resilient and so strong, and that was what she prided herself on, and there was a lot of help from the people there. The DeVitos were definitely very helpful, everyone there, our studio teacher Richard [Wicklund]. Everyone on set gathered around me and took care of me […] After she went to the hospital [during the shoot], she actually wrote up a letter thanking everybody for all their support and gave it and sent it to Danny. They passed it to the call sheet the next day just so everybody would know.
‘Matilda’ is really what got me through that, I think. There is no question that I would have gotten through that year and the next year of publicity and everything without ‘Matilda.'”
6. Wilson actually likes watching “Matilda” from time to time. She said:
“I get very critical of myself. In fact, Matilda is kind of an oddity because I do like watching it. Or I like watching it more than some of the others, because I feel proud of how I did in it.”