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Mara Wilson Young: The ‘Matilda’ Star on Her Early Career and Growing Up In the Spotlight

She portrayed adorable little girl characters for years, but then disappeared from acting

Most of us remember Mara Wilson, as the charming 6-year-old, Natalie Hillard, in 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire. But now, at 36-years-old, young Mara Wilson is all grown up!

Born July 24, 1987 in Los Angeles, at the age of 5 she decided to follow in the footsteps of her older brother after he began acting in television commercials. After booking a few of her own, Wilson was cast in Mrs. Doubtfire as the youngest daughter of Robin Williams and Sally Field’s characters.

young girl smiling; mara wilson young
Mara WIlson (1995)Barry King / Contributor

Although she had a role in a major film, Wilson’s life remained relatively normal off the screen. “When I was cast in Mrs. Doubtfire, my parents were proud, but they kept me grounded,” Wilson explained in an interview. “If I ever said something like, ‘I’m the greatest!’ my mother would remind me, ‘You’re just an actor. You’re just a kid.’”

Find out where the career of young Mara Wilson went, her biggest roles and why she ended up leaving the business.

Mara Wilson young has a blossoming career

young girl with santa
Mara Wilson in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1994)moviestillsdb.com/20thCenturyStudios

A year after she starred in Mrs. Doubtfire, Wilson scored a role in A Time to Heal with Nicollette Sheridan and Gary Cole. That same year, she starred in the remake of Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1994) as Susan.

Wilson shared how she snagged the part of Susan and how she changed the minds of the writers. “John Hughes had been assigned to write the script of the Miracle remake, and the part of Susan had been rewritten as a boy named Jonathan,” Mara said.

“The script ended up in my mother’s hands. I liked Jonathan/Susan right away; she seemed smart. A few days later I read my lines for the production team and told them I didn’t believe in Santa Claus, but I did believe in the tooth fairy and had named mine after Sally Field. They laughed, thanked me for my audition, and within a few weeks had changed Jonathan back to Susan. I had the part.”

Mara Wilson becomes Matilda

family standing by car; mara wilson young
Mara Wilson in ‘Matilda’ (1996)moviestillsdb.com/TriStarPictures

In 1996, Wilson booked one of her best-known roles in Matilda. She portrayed the adorably smart title character, who has psychic powers she uses to get even with her awful family and take down a sadistic headmistress.

I remember just falling in love with the script, and laughing out loud, and thinking, ‘This is perfect. I want this. I really, really want to do this.’ And then going in to audition for Danny [DeVito, director] and just feeling an instant connection with him.”

Young Mara Wilson moves on from Hollywood

woman smiling on carpet
Mara Wilson (2019)Jerod Harris / Stringer / Getty

After starring in Matilda, Wilson only had a small number of roles. She starred in A Simple Wish (1997), Balloon Farm (1999) and Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). But after that, she seemed to disappear from the acting world until 2012, but even then, she only took on minor roles.

It wasn’t until recently that Wilson shared why she left Hollywood at such a young age. “I don’t think you can be a child star without there being some kind of lasting damage,” she explained. And although Wilson never had any bad experiences on set, she shared, “I was still sexualized. I had people sending me inappropriate letters and posting things about me online. I made the mistake of Googling myself when I was 12 and saw things that I couldn’t unsee.”

Wilson left acting behind to pursue a normal life, attending high school and then onto New York University. Today, the actress is mostly on stage, as well as a voice actress, writer and playwright.

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