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Trivia / Matilda

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The book

  • Technology Marches On:
    • In today's age where everyone (even school-age children) has a cell phone with a camera, Miss Trunchbull's violent actions against the kids "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 social media, and this would prompt a lot of police visits to the school.
    • Also Wormwood Motors would rapidly gain a bad reputation, in this age of online reviews.
    • These days, Mr Wormwood would not be using an electric drill to alter the mileage of cars; modern-day "clocking" would most likely be done using a laptop with the right software.
    • The "lovely telly" in the Wormwood household with its twelve-inch screen would be very dated now, especially as Mr Wormwood has to cross the room towards it to turn the sound down, causing Mrs. Wormwood to be "ratty" about missing her programme, when nowadays you can pause live TV. On top of that, nowadays it's also possible to turn the sound up and down with the remote control, meaning you won't have to walk towards the TV anymore.
  • 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.
  • Write Who You Know: Roald Dahl allegedly based the Trunchbull off his daughter's headmistress at boarding school — who had really creative punishments. Once, his daughter and a friend were caught sneaking ice cream and were made to stand until dawn as the ice cream melted down their legs.

The movie

  • Acclaimed Flop: The movie was not a box office success, but was received very well by critics and audiences for staying true to the book. It gained a bigger audience on video and on television.
  • Acting for Two: Danny DeVito and his dubbers play Mr Wormwood and narrate the story.
  • Actor-Inspired Element: Mara Wilson designed the doll that features in the "Little Bitty Pretty One" sequence, and named her Wanda.
  • Adored by the Network:
    • This movie has been a staple of Freeform's 31 Nights of Halloween since 2019, usually airing every other day.
    • For some reason, Disney Channel Latin America loved to put this movie on weekends during the early 2010's. And in the early 2020's, they started doing it again, although this time during random days of the week.
  • Approval of God: Notably one of the few adaptations of his work the Dahl Estate ever approved of, as getting the approval of his widow was necessary just to get the movie made. She loved the script to the point of not even having any notes or changes.
  • Beauty Inversion: The sweet-faced Pam Ferris as the ugly and evil Mrs. Trunchbull.
  • Better Export for You: Never received a widescreen DVD in the US, but did receive this treatment in Europe.
  • California Doubling: A literal example. The movie was shot in parts of Arcadia, California, despite being set elsewhere.
  • 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.
    • The TV version of the Latin American dub was directed by Rocío Garcel, who voices Jennifer Honey.
  • Enforced Method Acting: 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.
  • Friendship on the Set: Mara Wilson has described Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman as essentially being like a second family to her, letting her stay at their house while her mother was undergoing treatment for her cancer.
  • 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. It was also her favourite role, and the film she is proudest of, so she has embraced this as the years have gone by.
    • Embeth Davidtz seems to be heavily associated with Miss Honey too. Despite starring in acclaimed films like Schindler's List, Bridget Jones' Diary and Junebug, and appearing on shows like Mad Men (at least two of these roles have her playing less likable, Alpha Bitch characters) — plenty of news articles will still refer to her as 'Miss Honey from Matilda'.
  • In Memoriam: The film is dedicated to Mara Wilson's mother Suzie, who passed away during filming.
  • Irony As He Is Cast: Jimmy Karz, the actor who played Bruce, actually didn't like chocolate cake.
  • Method Acting: Pam Ferris would often stay in character when Danny Devito called cut in an attempt to scare the children on set so that their fear of Miss Trunchbull would be genuine when the camera was rolling.
  • On-Set Injury: Pam Ferris had to go to the hospital three times during filming. Once when filming the scene where she was beaten by chalkboard erasers because a piece of chalk dust got in her eye and had to be flushed out two separate times. And the third was when Trunchbull throws Amanda Thripp by her pigtails, the rig that let her do it nearly ripped off the top of one of her fingers and she needed 8 stitches to reattach it.
  • Promoted Fangirl: 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 most identified with, feels is the closest to her real personality, and in the role in which she feels she gave her best performance. She later gave her approval and acclaim to Matilda: the Musical.
  • Real-Life Relative: Zinnia Wormwood is played by Danny DeVito's real life wife Rhea Perlman.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root. Watch the first few minutes of that film until the song comes up and just try not to smile, fondly remember your childhood, and then dance around crazily.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: One of the early trailers for the film featured Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line," perhaps best known as the ending theme from Beetlejuice. An instrumental of "What's This?" was also used in that same trailer. The trailer also used the score from the movie Hook.
  • Shout-Out: Miss Honey's Liccy Doll is named after Roald Dahl's widow Felicity Dahl, whose nickname was Liccy.
  • Stillborn Franchise: Danny DeVito originally wanted to do a sequel to the film with Mara Wilson reprising her role as Matilda. However, given that Wilson retired from acting and has grown up over the years, DeVito's plans never materialized.
  • 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, she took off the sweater and left it folded on her lap.
  • Trolling Creator: The Bruce Bogtrotter cake scene took so long to film that the crew wrote an infinity symbol on the call sheet times.
  • What Could Have Been:
  • Word of Saint Paul: Mara Wilson said that she felt Matilda grew up to earn several college degrees and become a librarian.

The musical

  • Accent Depundent: "School Song" features phonetic puns on every letter of the alphabet (e.g. "I have suffered in this jail; I've been trapped inside this cage for ages, This living 'ell"). There are several cases where the puns rely on distinct quirks of British accents and dialects.
    • The abbreviated "'ell" for the letter L shows an accent quirk that doesn't carry outside of Great Britian. American accents and dialects don't remove the "H" sound from the start of words in the same way.
    • The letter "R" is represented by "asked", which doesn't sound the same as the name of "R" in a rhotic accent or, for that matter, in the north of England.
    • "V", is represented by "severely", and that syllable doesn't sound the same as the letter "V" in a rhotic accent.
    • "Z" is represented by "Phys-ed", using "Zed" instead of "Zee", the latter of which is used in American English.
    • Subtler examples are that the sound of "H" is represented by "ancient" in the phrase "ancient history", and the "Q" sound is represented by "curious", both of which could be fudged in an American accent, but it's less of a stretch in a British one.
  • Approval of God: Mara Wilson later gave her stamp of approval to the musical adaptation.
  • 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... note 
    • Also, Matilda is supposedly a 5-year-old, but is played by kids aged 9 to 12. 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.
  • Role Reprise: Bertie Carvel and Lauren Ward, Miss Trunchbull and Miss Honey, respectively, originated their roles in all three productions (Stratford, West End, and Broadway). Both were nominated for an Olivier Award in 2012, with Carvel winning for Best Actor, and a Tony Award in 2013.