Matilda’s Mara Wilson on the sad truth about being a child star

"I made the mistake of Googling myself when I was 12 and saw things that I couldn’t unsee."
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Rising to prominence for her role in Mrs. Doubtfire at the age of five, Mara Wilson is best known for her role as Matilda in the Roald Dahl original film.

The nine-year-old captured the hearts of many with her stellar portrayal of the headstrong youngster, yet, it was this influx of fame that deterred her from acting in the long run.

WATCH: Matilda 1996 film trailer. Article continues after video.

Mara Wilson retired from acting at age 13 in 2000. It was only until 2012 that she would return to the entertainment industry as a voice actor. 

In her recently published memoir, she has now shared what made her take such a long break alongside the pressure of being in the public eye at a young age.

Content Warning: This article makes reference to sexual harassment and mental health. It may be distressing to some readers.

Mara revealed her insights into being a child star in her book, ‘Good Girls Don’t’. (Credit: Instagram)

Just before she was cast as the titular role of Matilda, Mara was learning to cope with the loss of her mother due to breast cancer. She was eight years old.

It was the combined pressure of rising to worldwide stardom that truly impacted the now-35-year-old.

In an interview with The Guardian, the actress said, “I don’t think you can be a child star without there being some kind of lasting damage.”

She said while she “felt safe on film sets”, “sketchy, questionable things” happened from time to time, including being asked to work overtime when her parents weren’t present.

Off film sets, she told the outlet, was where a lot of damage occurred.

“I was still sexualised. I had people sending me inappropriate letters and posting things about me online. I made the mistake of Googling myself when I was 12 and saw things that I couldn’t unsee.” 

Alongside the added expectation of “measuring up” to her on-screen appearance, Wilson faced an underlying sense of fear when it came to living up to “the narrative”. 

Mara Wilson at 90s Con. (Credit: Instagram)

At age 12, she revealed, she started getting overlooked for jobs.

As told to The Guardian, Mara was asked by a director to wear a sports bra to flatten her chest while on set. After losing a role to Kristen Stewart in her early teens, she says she was affected by the fact she was no longer considered ‘cute’ in Hollywood.

At age 13, the star quit professional acting and put herself into performing arts boarding school with her earnings. It was there that she discovered her love of writing, which she now considers one of her primary occupations.

While she also dabbles in voice over work, she says she is no longer interested in the industry ‘defining’ her look. 

Alongside her new book Good Girls Don’t, where she talks about the realities of being a child star, Mara has published another memoir, Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame.

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