Surprising Facts About The Classic Children's Movie "Matilda"

There are certain movies that define our childhoods. There's Watership Down or Snow White if you're of a certain generation, for example.

Younger readers, however, will remember Matilda far more fondly. It was one of those movies that you saw a thousand times. Maybe as a girl, you wanted to be able to cast spells, or as a boy, hang out with Miss Honey.

There are certainly worse punishments in life than being made to eat chocolate cake, aren't there? Matilda was a wonderful movie; it was equal parts funny, sweet and poignant.

So join us for a walk down memory lane to learn a little more about the making of Matilda.

1. Matilda's Parents Were Married In Real Life

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To be precise, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman were husband and wife as they filmed Matilda; after more than 30 years of marriage, they are separated as of 2017.

2. Pam Ferris Was Mean Off Screen


In the role of Agatha Trunchbull, Ferris was supposed to be mean to kids, but she kept the act up off screen so that the children would actually be scared of her.

3. Pam Ferris Really Likes Being Mean To Kids


Pam may have worried about being typecast after she played a similar role in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the abusive Auntie Margie.

4. Matilda's Family Name Is A Clue To Their Nature

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The family surname is "Wormwood," which refers to a poisonous plant known for causing hallucinations, convulsions, and death by kidney failure. Try not to eat any.


5. The Picture Has A Special Significance


This portrait is said to be of Magnus in the movie but in fact, it's of author Roald Dahl who wrote the book Matilda is based on.

6. There Are Some Sneaky Acknowledgements In The Movie

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The most obvious is when Matilda talks to Miss Honey and says she loves "Dahls Dickens" rather than Charles Dickens. Yes, it's a deliberate nod to the author.

7. Mara Wilson's Time On Matilda Was One Of Sadness

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Mara Wilson's real-life mom passed away during the filming of Matilda. She found that she had breast cancer and it was too late for it to be treated. The movie was dedicated to her.

8. Matilda Borrowed From The Nightmare Before Christmas

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The early trailers for Matilda all had something in common with The Nightmare Before Christmas. That is, they used the theme music from the Tim Burton classic.

9. Mara's Mom's Death Impacted Her Career

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Mara Wilson has barely been seen on TV or in film since Matilda. She says it's because her mother's death made her lose her interest in acting.

10. Mara Made Her Own Doll


Matilda carries a cute doll throughout the movie. It was actually made by the actress Mara Wilson because nobody else had thought to provide one.

11. Paul Reubens Is Famous For Other Things

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He was an FBI agent for the duration of Matilda, but Paul Reubens shot to fame as the character Pee-Wee Herman. Then he became infamous off-screen, but we won't dwell on that.


12. The Doll's Name Means Something


The doll that appears in the movie is a "Liccy doll" and it's named after Roald Dahl's wife -- Felicity or "Liccy" d'Abreu Croslan.

13. The Writing On The Blackboard Was Very Hard


This would be a cheap CGI effect today, but back then it required someone write on the board from behind using a magnet. That means it had to be written backward, too.

14. Danny DeVito Was Very Busy During The Movie


Not only is Danny DeVito the unpleasant Mr. Wormwood in the movie, but he was also the director, and to top if off, he also did the narration.

15. Mariska Hargitay Was Nearly In Matilda

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She's best known as Detective Olivia Benson on Law and Order: SVU, but she decided to turn down the role of Miss Honey in Matilda.

16. The Role Of Matilda Was Recast At The Last Minute


The twins Keaton and Kylie Tyndall had initially been chosen to play Matilda, but they caught the flu just before filming and the part was recast. 

It's always nice to get behind the scenes of our favorite movies and learn something new about them.

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