Mara Wilson

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Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Wilson in November 2017
Mara Elizabeth Wilson

(1987-07-24) July 24, 1987 (age 35)
  • Actress
  • writer
Years active1993–2000, 2012–present
RelativesNat Mayer Shapiro (grandfather)
Ben Shapiro (cousin)

Mara Elizabeth Wilson (born July 24, 1987) is an American actress and writer. She rose to prominence as a child for playing Natalie Hillard in the film Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)[1] and went on to play Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street (1994), the title character in Matilda (1996), Annabel Greening in A Simple Wish (1997), and Lily Stone in Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). She took a 12-year hiatus following the last film to focus on writing. She returned to acting in 2012, and has predominantly worked in web series.

Early life[edit]

Mara Elizabeth Wilson was born in Burbank, California, on July 24, 1987,[2] the oldest daughter of Burbank PTA school volunteer Suzie Wilson (née Shapiro; 1953–1996) and KTLA broadcast engineer Mike Wilson.[3] Her mother was Jewish, while her father is half Irish.[4][5][6] She was raised Jewish[7] but became an atheist when she was 15.[8] She has three older brothers named Danny, Jon, and Joel, and a younger sister named Anna.[9] She is a cousin of political commentator and media host Ben Shapiro,[10][11] but has disavowed him due to differences arising from his conservative views and her opposing progressive beliefs.[12] They have no contact with each other.[13]

Wilson's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 10, 1995,[14] and died on April 26, 1996. The film Matilda was dedicated to her memory.[15] Wilson later recalled that this affected her passion for acting.[16] At age 12, Wilson was diagnosed with OCD.[17] She has also been diagnosed with ADHD.[18] She attended Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, California. After graduation in 2005, she relocated to New York City to continue her studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 2009.[19] She appeared in her own one-woman show called Weren't You That Girl? while in college.[20]


Wilson in 2017

When Wilson was five, she became interested in acting after watching her older brother Danny appear in television commercials. Her parents were initially disinclined, but eventually agreed to allow her to act.[21] After appearing in several commercials for businesses like Lunchables, Bank of America, Texaco, and Marshalls, she was invited to audition for the 1993 comedy film Mrs. Doubtfire. Producers were impressed and awarded her the role of Natalie Hillard. The following year, she appeared in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street.[22]

In 1994, Wilson was cast in a recurring role as Nikki Petrova on Melrose Place and played Barbara Barton in the television film A Time to Heal.[citation needed] She sang "Make 'Em Laugh" at the 67th Academy Awards broadcast on March 27, 1995, with Tim Curry and Kathy Najimy.[23] In 1995, she won the ShoWest Award for Young Star of the Year.

Wilson's film work caught the attention of Danny DeVito, and she was cast as the main protagonist Matilda Wormwood in the 1996 film Matilda. She was nominated for three awards for her performance, winning the YoungStar Award for Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film. In 1997, she starred in A Simple Wish alongside Martin Short.[24] Although Wilson was nominated for three awards, the film mostly received negative reviews by critics.

In 1997, Wilson went to a table reading for What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams, but she did not get the part.[25] A year later, she unsuccessfully auditioned for the 1998 remake of Disney's The Parent Trap but the role was given to Lindsay Lohan after she was deemed too young.[26] In 1999, she portrayed Willow Johnson in the 1999 film for The Wonderful World of Disney titled Balloon Farm, based on a fiction book.[27]

In 2000, Wilson appeared in the fantasy film Thomas and the Magic Railroad, which was her last film. She retired from film work shortly afterward.[28] She received a script for the 2001 film Donnie Darko, but declined to audition for the film.[29] After retiring from film acting, she began stage acting.[citation needed] Her theater credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Cinderella. She also starred in her own live shows Weren't You That Girl? and What Are You Afraid Of?[30]

In 2012, Wilson appeared briefly in one episode of a web series called Missed Connection in the role of Bitty and made special appearances on internet review shows for That Guy with the Glasses—most notably a comedic turn playing an adult Matilda during a review of Matilda by The Nostalgia Chick, Lindsay Ellis. That year, she explained why she quit film acting: "Film acting is not very fun. Doing the same thing over and over again until, in the director's eyes, you 'get it right', does not allow for very much creative freedom. The best times I had on film sets were the times the director let me express myself, but those were rare."[31]

In May 2013, Wilson wrote an article for, offering her opinion of the delinquency of some former child stars.[32] As of 2013, she worked for Publicolor.[33] Her play Sheeple was produced in 2013 for the New York International Fringe Festival.[34] In an interview that December, Wilson stated that her film acting days are over,[35] and that she is instead focusing on writing.[36] Her book Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame was published on September 13, 2016.[37]

Wilson has a recurring role on the podcast Welcome to Night Vale as "The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home", as well as her own storytelling show called What Are You Afraid Of?[38][39] In 2016, she made a brief return to television in a Mrs. Doubtfire-inspired episode of Broad City, in which she played a waitress where the comical Heimlich scene from the movie was re-enacted.[40][41] That same year, she also voiced Jill Pill, a writer/director anthropomorphic spider, in season 3 of BoJack Horseman.[42] She voiced Liv Amara/Diane "Di" Amara in Big Hero 6: The Series.[43]

In a 2017 NPR interview, The Simpsons voice actor Nancy Cartwright stated that a young Wilson was the inspiration for a character's voice on the episode "Bart Sells His Soul".[44]

Charity work[edit]

In 2015, Wilson collaborated with Project UROK, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to aid teens with mental illness.[45]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2013, Wilson resides in the Queens borough of New York City.[46] She came out as bisexual during an interview with Medium in September 2017.[47]

In 2015, Wilson appeared in a video by the mental health charity Project UROK in which she discussed the mental illnesses she has experienced, including anxiety, depression, and OCD.[48] She also discussed her history of mental illness on Paul Gilmartin's podcast The Mental Illness Happy Hour.[49]

In a 2017 op-ed in Elle magazine, Wilson defended 13-year-old actress Millie Bobby Brown after commentators sexualized Brown's public image.[50][51] In a 2021 New York Times op-ed, she commented on the documentary Framing Britney Spears and the parallels between their lives as child stars.[52] She recalled an incident in which she was asked to comment on the burgeoning sexuality of an 18-year-old Spears when she herself was barely 13, and expressed relief at largely escaping oversexualization of her public image compared to Spears. She described her disappointment when a reporter called her a "spoiled brat" after she stated that she wanted the day off on her 13th birthday instead of granting interviews.[52] She apologized for sounding like a "spoiled brat".[53]


Screen roles[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1993 Mrs. Doubtfire Natalie "Nattie" Hillard
1994 Miracle on 34th Street Susan Walker
1994 A Time to Heal Barbara Barton TV film
1996 Matilda Matilda Wormwood
1997 A Simple Wish Anabel Greening
1999 Balloon Farm Willow Johnson TV film
2000 Thomas and the Magic Railroad Lily Stone
Year Title Role Notes
1993 Melrose Place Nicole "Nikki" Petrova Recurring, 5 episodes
1996 Pearl Samantha Stein Episode: "The Tutor"
1999 Batman Beyond Tamara (voice) Episode: "Mind Games"
2016 Broad City Waitress Episode: "Burning Bridges"
2016 BoJack Horseman Jill Pill (voice) Recurring, 4 episodes, Season 3
2018–19 Big Hero 6: The Series Liv Amara/Diane "Di" Amara (voice) Recurring
Web series
Year Title Role Notes
2012 Nostalgia Critic Herself Episode: "A Simple Wish"[54]
2012 Nostalgia Chick Herself Episode: "Matilda",[55] also writer
2012 Demo Reel Donnie DuPre's wife (voice) Episode: "Lost in Translation (Bromance Version)"
2012 Shut Up and Talk Herself Episode: "Guest: Mara Wilson"
2012 Missed Connection Bitty Episode: "Bad Dates"[56]
2013 Welcome to Night Vale Faceless Old Woman (voice) 10 episodes
2014 Keith and The Girl Herself Episode: "2002: Boobs"[57]
2014 Nostalgia Chick Herself Episode: "Nostalgic Foods of Yore"
2014 Amy Poehler's Smart Girls Herself Episode: "The In Too Steep Tea Party"
2014 Maven of the Eventide Herself Pumpktoberfest Vlogs, Episodes 5 & 12
2014 I Don't Even Own a Television Herself Episode: "016 — Covert Conception (w/ Mara Wilson)"[58]
2015 Keith and The Girl Herself Episode: "2147: Gang Dick"[59]
2015 Gilmore Guys Herself Episode 4.21
2015 That's the Show with Danny Herself Episode: "117: The One with Mara Wilson"[60]
2015, 2017 I Don't Even Own a Television Herself Episodes: "026: Treacherous Love (w/ Mara Wilson)",[61] "081: I'm With the Band (w/ Mara Wilson)"[62]
2016 Mouth Time with Reductress Ruth Hrorgen Mouth Time LIVE! With Mara Wilson[63]
2019 Passenger List N/A Writer of "Cyberspace" (episode 5)
2020 Helluva Boss Mrs. Mayberry Episode: "Murder Family"[64]
2020 Our Popcorn Movie Dystopia - Some More News: The Movie Matilda Cody Web movie[65]
2020 The George Lucas Talk Show Herself May the AR Be LI$$ You Arli$$ marathon fundraiser;

The George Lucas Holiday Special

2021 You Are Good Herself Episode: Hocus Pocus with Mara Wilson
2022 Ollie & Scoops Claudia Grimson / The Creepy Girl (voice) 2 episodes (#9 "Vinnie Video" and #10 "A Night at Claudia's")

Stage roles[edit]

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (2004)
  • Cinderella (2005)
  • Weren't You That Girl? (2009)
  • What Are You Afraid Of? (2014)


  • Sheeple (Play, 2013)
  • Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (2016)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Organization Award Work Result
1995 ShoWest Awards Young Star of the Year N/A Won[66]
1996 YoungStar Awards Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film Matilda Won
Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Performance by a Younger Actor Nominated
1997 YoungStar Awards Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film A Simple Wish Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress Won
Saturn Awards Best Performance by a Younger Actor Nominated
2000 YoungStar Awards Best Young Actress in a Comedy Film Thomas and the Magic Railroad Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress Nominated


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  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (September 15, 2016). "Actress Mara Wilson has a memoir. She's not Matilda anymore". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  4. ^ @MaraWritesStuff (May 27, 2012). "I'm half Jewish and a quarter Irish. I BURN. RT @Pixiebybirth Do you burn, tan or none of ze above?" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  5. ^ @MaraWritesStuff (February 2, 2012). "@rare_basement He is short, half-Jewish, dark-haired, acted in an adaptation of a British kids' book and has a nickel allergy. HE IS ME" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  6. ^ Mara Wilson Interview Pt. 2 — Running Late with Scott Rogowsky on YouTube
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  36. ^ Finn, Natalie (February 11, 2015). "Matilda Reunion! Mara Wilson and Kiami Davael Are Still Friends and Hanging Out 19 Years Later—See the Photo!". E! News. E!. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
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  50. ^ Mara Wilson (November 14, 2017). "Matilda Actress Mara Wilson: A 13-Year-Old Girl Is Not 'All Grown Up'". Elle magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2021. As soon as I’d hit puberty, it had become okay for strangers to discuss my body. Every time I stumbled across an article about myself, every fear I had about my pubescent body was confirmed: I was 'ugly,' which as a woman, made me useless, or I was 'cute,' which made me an object. I was 'grown up,' which made me vulnerable. Because I was a child actor, my body was public domain.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  51. ^ Zoë Weiner (November 16, 2017). "Mara Wilson Defends "Stranger Things" Star Millie Bobby Brown In a Powerful Essay". Teen Vogue. Retrieved February 25, 2021. Last week, a grown man tweeted a photo of Millie dressed up for a premiere noting that the actress 'just grew up in front of our eyes,' and Mara says that it made her feel 'sick' and 'furious.'{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  52. ^ a b Mara Wilson (February 23, 2021). "The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved February 25, 2021. I learned I would be talking to reporters all day. Working on my birthday wasn’t new to me — I had celebrated my eighth birthday on the set of “Matilda” and my ninth filming 'A Simple Wish' — but this was still disappointing.
  53. ^ Theresa Ebden (July 26, 2000). "Mara at midlife". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on July 26, 2000. “Well, let’s think. Today’s my 13th birthday. I’m I-don’t-know-how-many miles away from home. Three thousand?” she said, apologizing for sounding, she says, like a spoiled brat.
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  59. ^ "Gang Dick (Keith and The Girl)". Keith and The Girl. March 16, 2015. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
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External links[edit]