In 1988, British author Roald Dahl published the book Matilda. The novel told the story of a brilliant young girl whose family mistreats and neglects her.
After enduring years of this abuse, Matilda starts playing pranks on her family.
Eventually, she realizes that she actually has powers verging on the realm of magical.
Children and parents everywhere loved the story of Matilda — it made the point that you can make a difference in your own life, and in others’ lives, no matter how young or old you are.
In 1996, Danny DeVito adapted the book into a feature film starring 9-year-old Mara Wilson as Matilda.
Mara, who had previously appeared in Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street, became a huge star. For years, people saw her face and immediately thought about Matilda.
But Mara’s personal life wasn’t picture-perfect. Just after filming wrapped on Matilda, Mara’s mom lost her battle with cancer.
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As a kid, Mara always loved reading — and her mom had actually read Matilda to her before the role came up.
Mara’s mom encouraged her to play the part, because she thought Matilda was an incredibly strong character.
When Danny DeVito offered her the role, Mara didn’t know how important he’d be in her life.
He and his then-wife, Rhea Perlman, invited Mara over for pool parties and events — and Mara remembers always having a blast while she was working with the seasoned actors.
But on March 10, 1995 — while filming Matilda — Mara’s mom, Suzie, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Danny and Rhea stepped up and offered to watch Mara anytime her parents needed to go to the hospital.
After filming wrapped, Suzie’s condition grew worse. She passed away on April 26, 1996.
Mara and the rest of her family were devastated, as she explains in her memoir, Where Am I Now?
The book, which is dedicated to her mother, describes an interaction that took place between Suzie and Danny that Mara will be forever grateful for.
Since Suzie passed before post-production was finished, she was never able to see the completed film.
Or so Mara thought.
She was always upset that her mom — who loved the story of Matilda so much — never got to see the final movie, but that actually wasn’t the case.
Years after Suzie passed away, Danny told Mara that he had actually visited her at the hospital with the almost-completed film and allowed her to watch it.
This one act gave Mara peace of mind that her mother had seen a project she’d been so proud of.
Although Danny DeVito played a horrible father in Matilda, he proved time and time again that he is actually a warmhearted man.
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