Trivia / Matilda

The book

  • Technology Marches On: In today's age of cell phones with cameras, Mrs. Trunchbull's violent actions against the children "whom nobody would believe if you would have told them" wouldn't remain a Dark Secret long, as they'd undoubtedly catch these actions and post them to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and this would prompt a lot of police visits to the school.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • When the book was still in the works, the protagonist was intended to be male, continuing the trend of little-boy protagonists in other Roald Dahl books.
    • In an early draft of the book, Matilda was a mischievous Enfante Terrible who used her powers to play nasty tricks on her otherwise goodhearted parents. She eventually went through a Heel–Face Turn and used her gift to save a bus full of schoolchildren, but this ended with her dying in the process.

The movie

  • Acclaimed Flop: The movie was not a box office success, but was received very well from critics and audiences for staying true to the book. It gained a bigger audience on video and on television. Matilda is one of a multitude of acclaimed flops to have come from a Roald Dahl story.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • The music that plays when the FBI agents search Harry's garage is from the film Pee-wee's Big Adventure. One of the agents is played by Paul Reubens.
    • One of the lunchboxes reads "Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey". Aside from it being a Bruce Springsteen reference, Asbury Park is also the hometown of Danny DeVito.
  • Actor-Inspired Element: Mara Wilson designed the doll that features in the "Little Bitty Pretty One" sequence, and named her Wanda.
  • California Doubling: A literal example. The movie was shot in parts of Arcadia, California.
  • Creator Cameo: The portrait of Magnus, Miss Honey's father, is a portrait of Roald Dahl.
  • Creator In-Joke: Miss Honey named her doll 'Liccy Doll'. Roald Dahl's daughter, who was a producer on the film, is called Liccy.
  • Cross-Cast Role: The young Matilda was played by twin boys, due to the original twin girls falling ill with flu.
  • Dawson Casting: Kira Spencer Hesser was a borderline example, playing the elementary school student Hortensia at age thirteen.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Danny DeVito is the director, the narrator, and Harry Wormwood, as well as serving as one of the producers.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • Pam Ferris remained in character between takes and scared the child actors, so their fear of her would be genuine.
    • Mara Wilson was so self-conscious about dancing in front of the crew that Danny DeVito made everyone on set dance along with her.
  • Fake American: South African actress Embeth Davidtz puts on an American accent to play Miss Honey.
  • I Am Not Spock: Mara Wilson has said that multiple fans still call her 'Matilda', prompting her to remind them that Matilda is a character and doesn't really exist. However she does affirm that Matilda was quite close to her real personality; one of the reasons she wanted to play her in the first place.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor:
    • Danny De Vito and Rhea Perlman play utterly rotten parents to Matilda. Mara Wilson describes the two of them as lovely people whom she loved working with.
    • Mara has also described Pam Ferris as one of the nicest human beings she's ever met, and fondly remembers her delightfully showing Mara and the other children pictures of her rescue puppies between takes.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Mara Wilson mentioned that she and her siblings were longtime fans of the book, and that she put a very serious effort into doing the role properly as the book and character meant so much to her. It is the role she is best identified with, feels is the closest to real life personality, and feels she did the best performance of. She later gave her approval and acclaim to Matlida The Musical.
  • Real-Life Relative: Zinnia Wormwood is Danny DeVito's wife Rhea Perlman.
  • Throw It In!: A minor example; As Matilda prepares to go on her first day of school she wears a blue sweater, but Mara Wilson thought it was too itchy and didn't like wearing it. So for the next scene when she gets in the car Wilson took off the sweater and left it folded on her lap.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Originally, Mariska Hargitay was supposed to have played Miss Honey, while Richard Donner was supposed to direct.
    • For the sequence where Matilda dances as she uses her powers, the song they played on set was Harry Belafonte's "Matilda". In the final film it's Thurston Harris's "Little Bitty Pretty One".

The musical

  • Dawson Casting: The older children are played by adults and they look it. It seems odd when they show up in Revolting Children. Even worse is when they equal the height of the actor playing Trunchbull, who is meant to tower over all of the children...
    • Intentionally so: to a five year old on her first day at school, the place is full of intimidating giants.
    • Also Matilda is supposedly a 5 year old, but is played by 9 - 12 year olds. Most of them are Older Than They Look. Original Matilda Kerry Ingram could pass as a young girl on her own but next to the others not so much, leading to taller, older actors cast in the parts of older children.
    • A special mention goes to Sophia Kiely who was 12 by the time she left looking nothing like her age.
    • Heather Tepe, of the Broadway production, is currently a swing for Lavender, Nigel, Amanda, Eric, Alice, and Tommy.
    • Beatrice Tulchin, Broadway's original Amanda (who is supposedly near Matilda's age), began the role at 11 1/2 and finished at 13 1/2.
    • On the 2015 National Tour, 20 year-old Megan McGuff played 10 year-old Hortensia, who is normally played by child actresses close to the character's age.