How Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman Changed Mara Wilson’s Life on ‘Matilda’ Set

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Videos by Rare

It’s nearly the opposite of uncommon to hear members from television, sports teams, movie casts, claim that everyone was like a family. I guess it’s because they pretty much see each other 24/7 for as long as they are shooting, which is why they all become so close. Which is exactly what happened with the cast of Matilda.

A Cancer Diagnosis

The film adaptation of the 1988 children’s novel by Roald Dahl starred a young Mara Wilson, Danny Devito, and Rhea Perlman. The then a child, Wilson, played the on-screen child of Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman as the Wormwoods. In the movie, Wilson plays Matilda Wormwood, a five-year-old who is neglected by her parents and when she starts playing pranks on them she learns she has powers. Any child’s dream, honestly.

Off-screen, the three main characters had a very different relationship. At only 8-years-old, Wilson was told that her mother, Suzie, had breast cancer. Her onscreen parents were there to offer support. A year later, the young Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street actress ended up losing her mother to cancer while filming Matilda.

“Where Am I Now?”


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Devito and Perlman, a real-life couple went above and beyond to create a safe place for the young girl both on and off the set. In addition to dedicating time to her between sets, they made her a real-life family. They went to the theatre, had pool parties in the summer and took her on family trips. They even let her stay with them while her parents had to go to the hospital. Devito, who not only acted in the film, but was also the producer, director, and narrator dedicated the movie to Suzie Wilson’s memory.

Mara Wilson recently wrote a memoir called “Where Am I Now?” The book is also dedicated to her mother, Suzie, who encouraged her to play Matilda due to her strength. On Danny and his wife, she says, “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.”

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