Today, Thursday, November 17, 2022, is the 78th birthday of American actor Danny DeVito. While these days he is best known for playing Frank Reynolds in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, he is also a renowned director. Most notably, he helmed the 1996 kids’ movie Matilda, while also starring in it. Behind the scenes, he took great care of Mara Wilson, the star of the film.
Wilson played the titular young girl with telekinetic powers. DeVito played her on-screen father, the devilish and despicable Harry Wormwood.
Wilson spent all her time as a child on the movie’s set. She was taught there and built a family around the movie’s production.
Unfortunately, behind the scenes, her mother, Suzie Wilson, fell ill with breast cancer. With added stress at home, DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman – who played his on-screen wife, Zinnia Wormwood – offered to take the eight-year-old actress home to look after her.
Before long, Wilson’s mother got worse. And eventually, Suzie Wilson died in April 1996 – just months before Matilda hit cinemas.
Matilda arrived on the big screen on August 2, 1996. Wilson’s mother never managed to see the movie – or so Mara thought.
DeVito managed to pay Suzie Wilson a visit in the hospital just before she died to give her a beautiful gift that meant a lot to Mara.
Wilson revealed in her memoir – Where Am I now? – that DeVito visited Suzie in secret and played her a rough cut of Matilda before it had hit cinemas. This allowed her to see her daughter in the movie before anyone else, and before she died.
Wilson only learned of this years later and explained how much it meant to her, and how grateful she was for DeVito’s gift.
Wilson’s mother was also paid tribute in the film’s end credits.
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When Wilson saw that Matilda was dedicated to her mother she said: “I felt so glad when I saw that in the credits. And I still feel happy when I see that now. I’m so glad they did that.”
Despite the tragic circumstances of filming Matilda, Wilson had nothing but great memories of creating the movie. She said: “I was going through a hard time, and I know I had hard days, but everyone on the film was so nice.”
She also widely praised DeVito. The 35-year-old added: “Danny and Rhea were like my favourite aunt and uncle. It was wonderful. I remember feeling anxious when the movie wrapped, and it was really hard to go back to being normal and dealing with my mom’s sickness.”
The actress added: “I definitely feel like having that family there, and having people willing to take care of us and help us out, made it easier.”
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Wilson continued to heap praise on the Matilda film shoot. She said: “I remember feeling, when I was part of Matilda, that it was nice because I could focus on that and I could focus on everything good that was going on in my life.”
She also commented on the tight relationships she built while on the movie’s set. She noted: “It felt very familial on that set.”
Matilda went on to receive very favourable reviews. It even received glowing comments from famed movie critic Roger Ebert.
He said: “Trunchbull is the kind of villainess children can enjoy, because she is too ridiculous to be taken seriously and yet really is mean and evil, like the witch in Snow White. And since most children have at one time or another felt that their parents are not nice enough to them, they may also enjoy the portrait of Matilda’s parents.”
In the past, DeVito has revealed he would “like” to direct a sequel to Matilda in the near future.
He noted that he would want Wilson to reprise her role as Matilda. He also said he would want to bring Matilda’s daughter into the forefront of the story.
Until then, Matilda is available to watch on NOW.
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