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

July 24, 1987 (1987-07-24) (age 34)
Alma mater New York University
Occupation Actress, writer
Years active
  • 1993–2000
  • 2012–present
Relatives Ben Shapiro (cousin)

Mara Elizabeth Wilson (born July 24, 1987) is an American writer and former child actress. Her best known roles include Natalie Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Matilda Wormwood in Matilda (1996), and Lily Stone in Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). Since retiring from film acting, Wilson has focused on writing, penning the play Sheeple which was produced for the New York International Fringe Festival in 2013 as well as publishing a memoir, Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (2016).

Early life

Mara Elizabeth Wilson was born on July 24, 1987, in Burbank, California. Her father, Mike Wilson, was a television broadcast engineer, and her mother, Suzie Wilson (née Shapiro; deceased), was a homemaker. Wilson's mother was Jewish, and her father is of part Irish descent. She was raised Jewish and became an atheist when she was 15. She has three older brothers—Danny, Jon, and Joel—and a younger sister, Anna. Political commentator Ben Shapiro is her maternal cousin. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 10, 1995, and died on April 26, 1996, after production on Matilda had wrapped. Accordingly, the film was dedicated to Suzie's memory. After her mother died, Wilson lost some of her passion for acting.



Wilson became interested in acting after watching her oldest brother Danny act. Mara's parents refused to let her act, but they eventually reluctantly agreed to let her go into acting. After acting in commercials for Lunchables, Bank of America, Texaco, and Marshall's, Mara was invited to audition for the 1993 comedy film Mrs. Doubtfire and won the part of Natalie Hillard. This was followed by the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street. In 1994, she had a recurring role as Nikki Petrova on Melrose Place and played Barbara Barton in the television film A Time to Heal.

Wilson sang "Make 'Em Laugh" at the 67th Academy Awards telecast on March 27, 1995, with Tim Curry and Kathy Najimy. In 1995, she won the ShoWest Award for "Young Star of the Year". Her performances in those films caught the attention of Danny DeVito which led to her being cast as Matilda Wormwood in Matilda. She then went on to star in A Simple Wish alongside Martin Short.

In 1999, she played Willow Johnson in the 1999 Disney Channel television film Balloon Farm.

Wilson auditioned for the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, but she lost to Lindsay Lohan after being deemed too young for the role.

In 1998, Wilson went to a table reading of What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams, but she did not get the part.

Wilson appeared in the 2000 children's fantasy adventure film Thomas and the Magic Railroad; it was her last feature film until 2015. At that point, scripts were being sent to her so that she did not have to go to auditions. After Thomas and the Magic Railroad, Wilson retired from acting.

Before taking a 12-year hiatus from acting, she got the script for Donnie Darko but declined to audition for the film.

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, when asked why she quit film acting, Wilson explained: "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." Wilson appeared in the 2015 comedy-drama film Billie Bob Joe; it was her first feature film in over 15 years.

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? Her goal is to turn What Are You Afraid Of? into a podcast. In 2016, Wilson made a brief return to television in a Mrs. Doubtfire-inspired episode of Broad City; she played a waitress where the comical Heimlich scene from the movie was reenacted. That same year, she also voiced Jill Pill, a writer/director anthropomorphic spider, in season 3 of BoJack Horseman.


In May 2013, Wilson wrote an article for online magazine, offering her opinion of the delinquency of some former child stars. As of that year, she worked for Publicolor. Her play Sheeple was produced in 2013 for the New York International Fringe Festival. In an interview that December, Wilson stated that her film acting days are over, and that she is instead focusing on writing.

Personal life

Wilson went to the Idyllwild Arts Academy near Palm Springs, California, and graduated in 2009 from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. While at New York University she appeared in her own one-woman show called Weren't You That Girl?

When Wilson was 12, she was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Wilson has struggled with anxiety and depression. In 2015, she teamed up with Project UROK, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to aid teens with mental illness. Wilson appeared in a video in which she talks about the mental illnesses she has experienced, including anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has also been diagnosed with ADHD.

In 2013, Wilson lived in Queens, New York, and was involved with compulsive storytelling.

Wilson came out as bisexual in solidarity with the LGBT community.

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