Mara Wilson was undoubtedly one of the biggest child stars of the ’90s. From her breakout role in Mrs. Doubtfire, playing the daughter of Robin Williams, to her starring turn in Matilda, every child of the ’90s has fond memories watching Mara Wilson on screen.
Yet after dominating children’s roles in the ’90s, Mara Wilson seemed to disappear. But was it by choice? Here is everything you need to know about Mara Wilson and where she is now.
Born in 1987, Mara’s big break came at the age of five when she won a role in the hit comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. Incredibly, it was her first film audition, but her natural charisma charmed the producers. The following year, she appeared in another well-known property, a remake of Miracle on 34th Street. She was so good in her audition that the director scrapped plans to make the part for a boy instead.
Then, at the age of nine came her biggest role. She was the star of her own movie, Matilda, about a girl with psychic powers. At this point, Mara’s stardom was well-cemented. It seemed her star could only continue to grow.
As Mara grew older, she was no longer the precocious little girl that had made her a household name. But that didn’t stop producers from trying to cast her in cute little girl roles. At 11, she was cast in Thomas and the Magic Railroad and had to pretend to still be a little kid. The problem was her body didn’t get the memo.
Mara later detailed the humiliating experience of having her director, a “grandmotherly woman” named Britt Alcott, tell her that she needed to wear a sports bra to conceal her changing body in the film. “The change I was experiencing would have been uncomfortable enough in private, but I was going through it under public scrutiny,” Mara wrote in a 2016 essay for The Guardian.
She has also said that puberty “is a serious job hazard when your job is being cute.” Thomas and the Magic Railroad ended up being her last major role in 2000.
By the time she was 12, Mara was already at a crossroads. The roles had dried up, and she couldn’t seem to compete with the impossible beauty standards of Hollywood, “where an actress had to be attractive to eight out of 10 people to be considered for even the homely best friend character,” Mara wrote in The Guardian.
By the time she was 13, “no one had called me cute or mentioned the way I looked in years,” Mara said. Furthermore, her mother had passed away from cancer shortly after Mara finished filming Matilda, and her passion for acting had just never been the same. After a year of auditions with no callbacks, Mara decided to call it quits and focus on school. Eventually, she earned a degree in Drama from NYU.
Becoming an Advocate and Writer
The negativity of Hollywood took its toll on her self-esteem. To this day, Mara battles with OCD, depression and anxiety, and she is a vocal advocate on the subject. She made a comedy show about her experiences in 2014 called “What Are You Afraid Of?”
Mara may not be acting much anymore (except the occasional voice roles in shows like BoJack Horseman) but she’s turned writing into a career instead. “Writing I’d always loved. Even on the sets of various movies, I would always be in my trailer writing stories,” she told NPR in 2016. She has published essays and humor in outlets such as Jezebel and Cracked. She also has written a memoir Where Am I Now? that details her experiences both in and out of the Hollywood eye.
Social Media Prominence
Nowadays, Mara is very active on Twitter and Facebook, promoting her writing on both platforms. She occasionally does podcast work for friends, appearing on “Welcome To Night Vale” as a recurring character. And she is active in promoting crowdfunding causes. Like other celebrities, Mara has experienced harassment on social media, but doesn’t plan to leave them anytime soon.
“Would I have joined Twitter if… I’d known it would mean violent threats, sexual harassment, and anti-semitic slurs at least once a week?” Mara wrote in a 2018 Elle essay. “I have considered shutting down my account so many times. But every time I do, I remember the show I have to promote, the nonprofits I’m supporting and said I’d tweet about, and the interesting people I’ve never met in person and have no way of contacting. Giving those things up would be a major life change.”
The Matilda Challenge
One good thing that has come about on social media for Mara is The Matilda Challenge, which went viral in 2018. The challenge involves pretending to have telekinetic powers like the movie character Matilda. Mara loved watching people pretend to be Matilda and gave the challenge her seal of approval.
In 2016, Mara decided to come out as bisexual on Twitter. She made the decision to come out after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, when 49 people were murdered. She tries to be open with her fans online, but also recognizes that just saying so puts yet another target on her back.
“You don’t need to understand something completely to be okay with it,” she said in an interview with Medium, a message she hopes more people will come to understand.
Because she likes to tweet her liberal views, most people will be surprised to discover Mara’s cousin is famed conservative writer Ben Shapiro. The two are not on speaking terms, though. Mara has reportedly blocked him on Twitter, and tweeted that “growing up is great because you get to choose which relatives you want to spend time with and which ones to cut out of your life without any regret.”
Living Her Best Life
Now 32, Mara is happy to leave her child star past behind her. She views her acting career as a different lifetime. But she’s glad if the characters she played had a positive effect on people’s childhoods.
As an adult, she describes herself as a “normal-looking woman living in a two-bedroom apartment in one of the less cool neighborhoods of New York.”
She’s not chasing after stardom. She’s enjoying her career as a writer. And she seems to be in a better place than ever.
“I’m not a celebrity and wouldn’t want to be one,” she says. “I’m much more ‘reformed drama nerd’ than ‘former child star,’ and I like it that way.”