Mara Wilson Reveals The Phone Call That Swung Her The Role Of Matilda

It would have been a VERY different film without her.

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In today’s dose of yes-you’re-getting-old news, this week marks the 20th anniversary of the film Matilda. Based on the 1988 Roald Dahl novel of the same name, Matilda was the perfect movie adaptation of what was a beloved childhood read for millions.

One of the reasons for its success as a film adaptation was its impeccable casting – Danny DeVito and his wife Rhea Perlman as the slimy Wormwoods, Pam Ferris as the imposing Miss Trunchbull and Embeth Davidtz as the softly-spoken Miss Honey – but it turns out that one of the film’s most memorable faces almost missed out on the role completely.

Mara Wilson, who played the lead role of Matilda, says her agent had already passed on the role, and it was only during a phonecall with her mother that the script ended up being sent over for consideration.

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“We got the script after my agent initially passed on it – I think she thought I was too busy at the time,” Mara recalls to Uproxx, in a new interview honouring the film’s two-decade anniversary.

“She called my mom saying, ‘So, there’s this script, there’s this script, there’s this one called Matilda, there’s this script.’ And my mom went, ‘Whoa, back up. Did you say Matilda? Send us that one.'”

Having read a lot as a child, Mara says that Roald Dahl’s book was “a big deal” in her family, and that her mum used to “read it aloud” to kids at her school.

Of course, even if the phonecall hadn’t happened, we reckon the film’s director Danny DeVito might have changed Mara’s agent’s mind, as he says the young actress was his first choice.

“When you get bitten by the bug to do the movie and you’re excited about it you start casting it immediately, “ he tells Uproxx. “[Mara] was the first person I thought of.”

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And once the pair finally met, well, the rest was history.

“I immediately liked him,” Mara says of her first sit-down with Danny at an LA deli.

“He just let me talk about school and let me talk about my life and what first grade was like and he told me later, ‘I knew I wanted you for Matilda the moment you walked in the door.’ Now, he might have been just being nice but it did feel like we had this immediate rapport.”

Anyone else dying to curl up on the couch with their Matilda DVD/the entire Roald Dahl back catalogue right now?