23 Interesting Facts About "Matilda" That Will Make You Want To Watch The Movie All Over Again

·11 min read

It's been 26 years since Matilda debuted in theaters and took the world by storm, so we're going to celebrate with some cool facts you may or may not know about the movie!

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1.Matilda was almost prohibited from being made.

A poster for the film

Matilda is the most successful film adaptation of a Roald Dahl book ever, but it almost didn't happen. After being disappointed by the 1971 movie version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as well as 1990's The Witches, the Dahl estate was completely against turning Matilda into a movie.

Dahl's widow, Felicity "Liccy" Dahl, eventually approved the screenplay after screenwriter Robin Swicord bargained to write the screenplay for free.

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2.Danny DeVito did more than star in the film.

Danny DeVito stands next to a camera

While many people recognize DeVito as Matilda's money-hungry father, Harry Wormwood, in the film, he also held another important title: director. But he didn't stop there. DeVito also served as a producer and the film's narrator. Talk about a man of many talents.

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3.Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were considered for the role of Matilda.

The twins sitting on a couch as their picture is taken

DeVito strongly considered casting the twins in the leading role because his children were big fans of theirs from Full House. Plus, his real-life wife, Rhea Perlman, worked with the Olsen twins in To Grandmother's House We Go, but they were busy filming It Takes Two. But after seeing Mara Wilson in Mrs. Doubtfire, DeVito knew he'd found his Matilda.

*DeVito and Perlman are separated but still officially married.

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4.Mariska Hargitay and more were in line to play Miss Honey.

Mariska, Winona Ryder and Rosie O'Donnell

Miss Honey, who was ultimately played by the lovely Embeth Davidtz, almost went another route. Hargitay turned down the role and later went on to star in Law & Order: SVU; Winona Ryder turned down the role because she was working on The Crucible; and Rosie O'Donnell turned it down to star in Harriet the Spy alongside Michelle Trachtenberg, who also auditioned to play Matilda.

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5.Robert De Niro and other big names were also in line to play Harry Wormwood.

De Niro, Tim Allen, and John Goodman

Robert De Niro, Tim Allen, John Goodman, Joe Pesci, Bob Hoskins, Chevy Chase, Richard Dreyfuss, and Bill Murray were all considered for the role of Harry before DeVito decided to take it on.

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6.Miss Trunchbull had the completely opposite effect on kids when the cameras weren't rolling.

Pam as Trunchbull leaning against a car

Pam Ferris, who played the iconic role of Miss Trunchbull, was said to have a polar-opposite personality from her character's. Although Ferris tried to keep her distance from the kids on set so that when she filmed with them, she'd be able to capture their natural reactions, kids still flocked to her. Ferris admitted, "It broke down very quickly because they were daring little ones there that just came straight up to me and put their hand in mine between takes. I fell in love with them completely.”

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7.Mara Wilson got extra creative on set.

Matilda in bed holding the doll

DeVito thought it would be fun to allow the cast to explore their creative side, and one way he did that was by allowing Wilson, who played Matilda, to create the doll she carried around.

"I drew a picture of a doll Matilda could have made using basic household materials," Wilson wrote on her personal blog. "And ended up with a real life red-pipe-cleaner-haired doll we called 'Wanda.' It’s one thing I feel comfortable using for bragging rights: ‘I got my first Design credit at age seven!’”

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8.Speaking of dolls, the name behind Miss Honey's little companion holds a special meaning.

Miss Honey's doll amid tree branches

It was very important to DeVito not only to honor the Dahl legacy but also to make a project that his surviving family could be proud of, so he looked for small and big ways to do that.

According to Wilson’s book, Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, the decision was made to call Miss Honey’s doll “Liccy" after his wife.

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9.Harry's hat was held down by his own weight.

Danny DeVito as Harry sitting in a chair and wearing a hat as Matilda looks on

Remember the scene where the Wormwoods walked into a fancy restaurant and Harry couldn't physically remove his hat, thanks to Matilda? Well, Danny DeVito revealed this about the scene: "What we did was, we had this harness on me and I had these two wires going up into the hat. I was holding [the hat] down with my body, and Rhea was pulling, trying to get it off my head."

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10.Producers used detachable braids during the hair-spinning scene between Miss Trunchbull and Amanda Thripp.

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"We had special braids made so that we could swing her around in a wide shot," DeVito said on Matilda's VHS director's cut. "They would pop out and we'd have to glue them back on."

DeVito and the film crew also had a safe word with Jacqueline Steiger — the young actor who played Amanda. If she ever felt dizzy or uncomfortable, all she had to do is yell, "Jelly beans!"

11.Transforming Pam Ferris into Miss Trunchbull was a challenge for the makeup artist.

Close-up of Pam as Trunchbull

Key makeup artist Ve Neill revealed that her team "took a face cast of her, and we made some pieces for her out of gelatin. We made her a nose tip, and we also made her eye bags so it made her look a little older and more tired." Neill also colored in all of Ferris's "imperfections" and freckles and turned them into broken blood vessels and veins. She also darkened Ferris's eyebrows, formed a mustache, and yellowed her teeth.

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12.Bruce Bogtrotter ate a lot of cake on set.

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"It was a really, really fun scene to do," DeVito said about the iconic cake scene. "He ate a lot of cake. We made big, huge, wonderful cakes. This is gross, but I'm going to tell you anyway what we did with Bruce Bogtrotter (played by Jimmy Karz) — we made him stuff his face, and then we'd cut the camera [and let him spit out the cake]. If he would've eaten all that cake, he would've really exploded. I'm telling you, it was so much cake, and the cake was good, too."

To make matters worse, it's been said that Karz didn't even like chocolate cake.

13.And all that that cake eating almost didn't make it into the film.

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Matilda's screenwriter, Robin Swicord, revealed, "There were times when, in the budgeting process particularly, [producers] were going, 'Do we really need the Bruce Bogtrotter scene with the chocolate cake?' Because it doesn't move the story forward. But I really loved that scene because his superpower was that he could eat a lot of chocolate cake."

The scene took so long to film that the call sheet had an infinity symbol written under the start and end times section.

14.Mara Wilson's mom died before Matilda was released.

Her mom, Suzie Wilson, was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 10, 1995, and died on April 26, 1996. Mara remembers DeVito, Perlman, and the rest of the cast and crew being her biggest support system during that time.

Her mom, Suzie Wilson, was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 10, 1995, and died on April 26, 1996. Mara remembers DeVito, Perlman, and the rest of the cast and crew being her biggest support system during that time.

"I didn't know [at the time]," Mara told Thrillist of her mom's diagnosis. "She was so resilient and so strong, and that was what she prided herself on, and there was a lot of help from the people there. The DeVitos were definitely very helpful, everyone there, our studio teacher Richard [Wicklund]. Everyone on set gathered around me and took care of me. After she went to the hospital [during the shoot], she actually wrote up a letter thanking everybody for all their support and gave it and sent it to Danny. They passed it to the call sheet the next day just so everybody would know. Matilda is really what got me through that, I think. There is no question that I would have gotten through that year and the next year of publicity and everything without Matilda."

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15.DeVito showed Wilson's mom an unofficial copy of Matilda before she died.

DeVito pointing at Wilson in the movie

“I was worried she wouldn't get to see the film," Mara Wilson said on Lorraine about her mother, who was in and out of the hospital while she was filming Matilda. "I didn't know this until later, but Danny DeVito took it unfinished to the hospital and showed it to [my mom]. She loved it. My mother always loved the book as well and used to read it to the children at my brother's school, so it was a real family affair. My heart was warmed, as she was involved until the very end."

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16.The portrait of Miss Honey's dad is actually of a real person.

Miss Honey and Matilda looking at a portrait resting on its side

Miss Honey's prized portrait of her father, Magnus Honey, is really a portrait of Matilda author Roald Dahl.

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17.Wilson was really nervous to film the "Little Bitty Pretty One" dance scene.

18.The squint Matilda did before she used her powers had a special name on set.

Close-up of Mara as Matilda

Matilda's powers, accompanied by her iconic eye squint, were known as "the whammy" on set. “[Danny] would just say, ‘Whammy that chair,’ ‘Whammy that over there,’ and I would know exactly what he meant,” Wilson said. “I really loved [Danny] as a director. He was very vaudevillian in everyday life as well. He taught me how to do prop falls and fake slaps and things like that. We had a lot of fun doing that.”

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19.The chalk really was floating in the air during the blackboard scene.

A blackboard with writing on it, including "Agatha, this is Magnus; give my little bumblebee her house and her money"

"Inside this piece of chalk was a magnet, a really strong magnet, and on the other side of the chalkboard was a guy who was writing backwards," DeVito revealed.

They actually had someone write out the entire message backward on the chalkboard first, and then, when they filmed the scene, all the man had to do was trace the letters so that the chalk would effortlessly float while "writing" on the other side.

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20.Ferris almost lost part of her finger while filming.

Mrs. Trunchbull pointing at Amanda

"When I throw the lovely little Amanda Thripp over the fence, the special effects guys hadn't worked out how I was supposed to hold on to the wires [in her braids] that supported her," Ferris told RadioTimes. "The wires came from her body casing through her plaits and into my hands, and I said, 'How am I going to hold this?' So they put a loop in the wire and said, 'Put that over your little finger and swing her around,' which I did, and of course the centrifugal force got stronger and stronger and I had to let go eventually, and it nearly took the top of my finger off. I had to have about seven or eight stitches."

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21.Ferris went on to play another villainous character involved with kids who had special powers.

Aunt Marge inflated

Ferris starred in the Harry Potter franchise as Aunt Marge (Marjorie Dursley). In a memorable scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry accidentally casts the Inflating Charm on his aunt, causing her to blow up like a balloon and float out of the room.

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22.Arnold Schwarzenegger almost made a cameo.

Arnold smiling

Arnold Schwarzenegger and DeVito are longtime friends who have starred in a few projects together, including Twins and Last Action Hero. So DeVito thought it would be fun to have him make a guest appearance as one of the FBI agents. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger was filming Eraser at the time and couldn't resolve the scheduling conflict.

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23.Lastly, Matilda actually loses her powers in the book.

Mara sitting in a large chair while holding the book

In the film, Matilda learns how to control her powers and ultimately keeps them till the very end. However, in the book, Matilda loses her powers after she is moved to an older class where she can be more intellectually challenged. Miss Honey sees it as a way for Matilda to be happier and for her to focus on her academics.

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Which fact were you most surprised by? Tell us in the comments below!

Did we miss a Matilda fact that you love? Share it in the comments!