10 Behind The Scenes Details That Make Matilda Even Better

Roald Dahl was the author behind many successful children’s books that were later adapted into acclaimed films. Even Tim Burton adapted Dahl with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl was largely known for his ability to create imaginative spaces that both children and adults appreciated. The 1996 film Matilda was adapted from Dahl’s 1988 novel with the same title, and while the film was initially unsuccessful, it later became a fan favorite.

RELATED: 10 Movie Adaptations Of Books That Are Written By The Author

Matilda follows the story of young Matilda Wormwood and a TV-obsessed fraudulent family. Matilda discovers that she has mysterious psychokinetic powers and super-human intelligence — which she shows off during class. Her kind teacher, Miss Honey, later adopted her, and Matilda felt right at home for the first time in her life. While the film has gained a cult following, there are some things even the biggest fans don’t know about the movie.

10 Bruce Bogtrotter Actor Actually Despised Chocolate Cake

One of the more disgusting scenes in Matilda is when Bruce Bogtrotter is forced by Miss Trunchbull to practically inhale a large chocolate cake. Jimmy Karz played Bruce Bogtrotter and also appeared in the 1998 film The Wedding Singer alongside actor Adam Sandler. The catch was — Karz couldn’t stand chocolate cake.

RELATED: 10 Books You Should Still Read Even After Watching The Movie Adaptation

According to Newsweek, the crew had to keep a spit bucket handy for Karz when they filmed that scene. It was practically like torture both on and off-camera. Mara Wilson — who played Matilda — also revealed how long it took to film that scene in the same conversation with Newsweek.

9 Roald Dahl Made A Brief Cameo

While Roald Dahl had passed away six years before Matilda was released, the author still snuck himself into the film. Matilda and Miss Honey encounter the portrait of Miss Honey’s late father Magnus in Miss Trunchbull’s home. However, the person in the image was actually Dahl himself when he served as a fighter pilot in World War II. This was a wonderful, yet subtle way to pay tribute to the late author. This piece of information may forever change what viewers think once they come across the scene.

8 Matilda Actress Designed Her Character’s Doll

Danny DeVito not only starred as Matilda’s swindling father Harry Wormwood, but also co-produced and directed the film. The famed actor and Mara Wilson had a special friendship that went beyond the set of Matilda. Due to their friendship, DeVito gave Wilson the artistic freedom to design her character’s doll for the film. Wilson took various household materials and drew out a picture of what she wanted the doll, named Wanda, to look like. Wilson’s sketch came to life, and the doll viewers saw on-screen was what the actress wished for.

7 Danny DeVito Was Married To His Character’s Wife

The Wormwoods were infamous for how often they tortured Matilda. It wasn’t only Mr. Wormwood that had it out for the young child, but also Mrs. Wormwood. DeVito not only directed, co-produced and starred in Matilda, but also invited his wife Rhea Perlman to play his on-screen spouse. The couple previously starred together in the sitcom Taxi. Perlman was best recognized for her role as Carla Tortelli in the sitcom Cheers before she was cast in Matilda. Perlman and DeVito amicably separated in 2017, but the pair remain close friends.

6 Mara Wilson Lost Her Mother Shortly After Filming Matilda

Life wasn’t just rough for Matilda on-screen, but actress Mara Wilson dealt with some bigger family issues during filming. Wilson’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when filming began. She tragically passed away three months before Matilda was released, and the film was dedicated in her memory.

RELATED: 10 Movie Adaptations You Should Still Watch Even After Reading The Books

Wilson revealed she was worried her mother would never see the final cut of the film, so DeVito took action. DeVito delivered a copy of the unfinished film to her mother’s hospital bed before she died, and showed Matilda to her.

5 The Extremely Long Process To Transform Miss Trunchbull

Miss Trunchbull and the chokey are by far the scariest parts of Matilda. Pam Ferris portrayed the overly athletic and terrifying schoolmaster, but she didn’t resemble Miss Trunchbull at all — both physically and personality-wise. Ferris’ transformation into her character took hours.

To bring Miss Trunchbull to the screen, makeup artists had to create a face cast and even eye bags made out of gelatin. The details behind this challenging transformation were discussed in the 2005 special edition DVD of Matilda. Ferris later moved on from the role and has since starred in Call the Midwife. A dramatic difference from Matilda.

4 The Movie Was Almost Canceled Over A Dispute About The Script

Although Dahl had passed away several years before Matilda was released, his widow was still involved in the production process. DeVito had written his own script for the film, which Liccy — Dahl’s widow — wasn’t particularly thrilled about. Dahl had been previously burned with the outcome of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so Matilda had to be handled with the utmost care. Liccy refused to sell the rights to Matilda until she had seen the screenplay. In fact, the film was almost canceled due to a dispute over the script. Luckily, the show went on.

3 There Was An Actual Name For Matilda’s Powers

People would be liars if they said they’d never attempted to squint hard at items to move them, as Matilda did. Matilda had telekinesis that allowed her to move objects, and while it is never said in the movie, the cast had a name for her superpower: whammy. Wilson revealed to Uproxx, in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary, how DeVito would tell her to “whammy the chair,” and she would know exactly what he was talking about. This also proved how much of a close relationship DeVito had with Wilson and many children on the set.

2 Mara Wilson Was Incredibly Shy While Filming The Dancing Scene

One of the most iconic scenes in Matilda was when she danced around the living room to “Little Bitty Pretty One.” The scene later regained popularity when it became a TikTok trend. The viral videos featured people attempting to move various objects, like how Matilda moved around books and furniture.

RELATED: 10 TV Series Adaptations You Should Still Watch Even After Reading The Book

While it didn’t appear like it on-screen, Wilson was known to be introverted and was incredibly nervous about this scene. In an attempt to ease Wilson’s nerves, DeVito made everyone in the studio dance along with her. It’s ultimately the little things that help actors to do their jobs.

1 There Was Also A Tribute To Dahl’s Wife

Roald Dahl wasn’t the only person to receive a subtle tribute in Matilda. Dahl married Felicity D’Abreu in 1983 and the couple remained married until his death in 1990. Felicity was also known by the nickname “Liccy.” According to Wilson’s 2016 novel Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, the decision was made to name Miss Honey’s doll Liccy. Like Dahl’s portrait, this was another touching way to honor the Dahl family. Liccy founded both the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and the Roald Dahl Foundation and remains active in ensuring the late author’s legacy never dies.

book to tv adaptations

10 Books You Should Still Read Even After Watching The Series Adaptation

Read Next

About The Author