Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Matilda’s Mara Wilson reveals the dark side of child fame: “who did they think they were, to talk about a preteen girl’s breasts?”

mara wilson as matilda.jpg

Mara Wilson shot to fame when she was just six years old, starring alongside Sally Field and Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire.

She later landed the role of Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street, before finding acclaim as Matilda Wormwood in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved book.

But, after puberty, Wilson all but disappeared from the public eye.

And now, speaking in her upcoming book, Where Am I Now: Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, Wilson has explained that this decision was made after she was subjected to the dark side of life as a child star.

Read more: Matilda's Mara Wilson comes out as bisexual after Orlando shootings

In extracts from the book, published in The Guardian, Wilson recalled an incident where she was sat down by Britt Allcroft, the director of Thomas and the Magic Railroad.

At the time, she was told that she was now a “grownup 12-year-old” and, as such, would need to start wearing a sports bra – a comment which left Wilson feeling “alienated” from her own body.

Shortly after this incident, the young actress looked herself up on the internet – and was horrified by what she found.

“A website called Mr Cranky wrote that I was popping up in every movie these days because I would soon be entering ‘the awkward years, when she’ll be old enough to have breasts, but not old enough to show them legally’,” she recalled.

“I folded my arms over my chest just reading that, and even as an adult it makes me shudder. Who did they think they were, talking about a preteen girl’s breasts?”

Mara Wilson at the Globe Awards in 1995

Mara Wilson at the Globe Awards in 1995

Wilson went on to reveal that she “burst into tears” when she clicked onto the next page of search results, which featured a website proclaiming to have “nude and sex pictures” of her.

She explained that, at the time, she struggled to comprehend what she was seeing – and she even wondered if she had been drugged and kidnapped to create the images.

“Some rational part of my brain remembered that there was such a thing as photo manipulation, that they could put my head on someone else’s body,” said Wilson.

“But that didn’t make me feel any better: who was this poor anonymous girl whose body stood in for mine?”

It was only the beginning; Wilson went on to find herself featured on a foot fetish website that catalogued the feet of child stars, and received a number of strange and unseemly requests from adult fans.

“There was even a rumour on IMDb that I had died from a broken neck,” she said.

Read more: In praise of Matilda, Roald Dahl's most enduring heroine

Wilson added that her status as a “cute” child star went on to affect her self-esteem, particularly as she grew up.

She found herself being bullied by her peers, having her weight constantly commented on, and unable to get call-backs at auditions.

Mara Wilson at the Young Star Awards in 2000

Mara Wilson at the Young Star Awards in 2000

When she was told that she could play the ‘fat kid’ in a new television show, despite the fact that she had wanted to play the “neurotic” character, she quickly realised what had happened.

“Things had changed,” she said. “At 13, being pretty mattered – and not just in the world of movies and TV.

“The pretty girls at school had always had an air of superiority, but once we hit puberty, they seemed to matter more. My career was the only thing I had over them.

“Now that it was waning, I was just another weird, nerdy, loud girl with bad teeth and bad hair, whose bra strap was always showing.”

Read more: Leading Hollywood stars launch joint attack on sexism in the film industry

Wilson eventually chose to put her schooling above her acting career, and watched many of her child actor peers – such as Kristen Stewart and Scarlett Johansson – grow up and become “sexy” women.

Nowadays Wilson is a playwright and comedy writer and she’s dipping her toe back into the world of showbiz again by voicing a character in the animated series, BoJack Horseman.

And, if anyone questions her decisions, or comments on her looks, she has already planned the perfect response for them.

“I will tell them how fitting it is that the only real acting I do these days is voiceover, where no one can see me.

“I will tell them how my [late] mother wanted me to prove myself through my actions and skills, rather than my looks. Now I believe I have, and I am happier than ever.”

Mara Wilson in Miracle on 34th Street, 1994

Mara Wilson in Miracle on 34th Street, 1994

Earlier this year, Wilson was praised for coming out as bisexual following the massacre in Orlando, which saw 49 people gunned down in gay club Pulse.

Sharing a photo of herself at a gay club when she was a teenager, she wrote: “Me at a gay club when I was eighteen.

“I feel embarrassed looking at it now… being a ‘straight girl’ where I clearly didn’t belong, but I will say, I felt so welcomed.”

“I have never had a better experience at a club than I did then. Great music and people. And one of my friends met his partner that night!”

She continued: “But the LGBTQ community has always felt like home, especially a few years later when I, uh, learned something about myself.

 “I *used* to identify as mostly straight. I’ve embraced the Bi/Queer label lately.”

Where Am I Now: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame is out on September 22 through Penguin Books.



Why are British teenage girls becoming more unhappy?


In praise of Matilda, Roald Dahl’s most inspiring heroine

thandie newton grope.jpg

Thandie Newton claims she was groped by male co-star

courteney cox.jpg

“I have done things that I regret”: Courteney Cox on sexism and ageing


Matilda star comes out as bisexual after devastating Orlando shootings

tv shows redefined gender female sexuality.jpg

TV shows that completely changed how we view women and relationships


Zoe Saldana calls on women to stop funding man-made movies


From Will & Grace to Buffy: when cult TV and film casts reunite


Roald Dahl’s most beloved characters: where are they now?


This massive star was very nearly in Hocus Pocus

Oh sisters, how very different things could have been

by Nicola Colyer
20 Oct 2017

Quentin Tarantino on not doing more to stop Harvey Weintsein

“I knew enough to do more than I did”

by Nicola Colyer
20 Oct 2017

Lupita Nyong’o says she was harassed by Harvey Weinstein as a student

“He told me not to be so naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing.”

by Moya Crockett
20 Oct 2017

Mary Berry takes part in heartbreaking film about child bereavement

“I would thank him for being a brilliant son.”

by Amy Swales
20 Oct 2017

Margot Robbie writes stirring open letter to Hollywood

by Nicola Colyer
19 Oct 2017

Gabrielle Union shares a powerful message about rape and harassment

The star says she’ll “keep talking out” for survivors like herself

by Susan Devaney
19 Oct 2017

Why the singer has opened up about her mental health

The singer says it was “really, really bad” during her time with the band

by Susan Devaney
19 Oct 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Madonna’s touching tribute to a Cruel Intentions reunion

by Nicola Colyer
19 Oct 2017

Anna Faris understands why people were obsessed with her relationship

She and Chris Pratt were often hailed as #relationshipgoals

by Amy Swales
19 Oct 2017

Cher is starring in the Mamma Mia! sequel and we can’t wait for 2018

Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

by Susan Devaney
18 Oct 2017