I hate these lists. Usually, they're by some smug I-know-more-than-you-know writer and filled with totally obvious stuff you can get right from the movie's Wikipedia page. But in honor of Matilda's 20th anniversary, I have gone through lots and lots of interviews and every special feature on my DVD to bring you a list of stuff worth knowing. I apologize if you do already know any of this stuff, but hopefully there's at least one new thing for you!
•Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are a real couple. Okay, fine, this may be common knowledge by now, but it blew my mind
when I found out. Danny DeVito, who is also the narrator and director of this movie, is really married to Rhea Perlman. They've been married since 1982, they have 3 children, and they are much
cooler than the Wormwoods.
•Mara designed Matilda's doll out of household materials, with a little help from the prop department. Her name was Wanda.
•One of Danny's favorite parts of the movie was the restaurant scene, where they used actual catapults to send the food flying.
•Pam Ferris wore gelatin eye bags and a nose tip as The Trunchbull. They also had to darken her facial hair and grunge up her teeth. The movie's makeup artist says she was the biggest challenge.
•Jacqueline Steiger (Amanda Thripp) had a safe word for dizziness during the pigtail scene with The Trunchbull: "jellybeans." She was totally safe in the harness, those aren't her real pigtails she's being swung around by, and she had a blast.
•Jimmy Karz (Bruce Bogtrotter) didn't really have to eat all that cake. They'd fill his mouth up and have him chew during the scene, and then let him spit as soon as they cut. (But the miserable look was for real. That was a loooot of fudging cake.)
•Only two songs are featured in the movie: "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Thurston Harris, and "Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root. The rest of the movie's score is composed by David Newman.
•Mara turned eight during filming, and Danny surprised her with a giant cake shaped like Matilda's signature red ribbon.
•Remember when Matilda showed Miss Honey her powers by moving the water pitcher on her desk? The pitcher was attached to a stick, and a crew member under Miss Honey's desk would move it when his cue came. (They edited the stick out later.)
•The portrait of Magnus (Miss Honey's father) is Roald Dahl, the author of Matilda.
•Liccy Doll was named for Roald Dahl's widow, Liccy Dahl, who was also one of the movie's producers.
•Mara was embarrassed to do Matilda's big dance scene, so Danny had the whole crew (except the cameraman) dance off-camera so she wasn't doing it alone.
•The writing on the chalkboard was real. The chalk had a magnet in it, and a special effects guy on the other side of the board would write Matilda's message backwards so it looked like the chalk was moving itself.
•No Trunchbulls were harmed in the making of this scene. The erasers attacking her were attached to sticks held by the crew. The laughter from the kids in this scene was genuine, because everyone was having so much fun.
•In the end, Moby Dick was delivered to Matilda and Miss Honey by a special effects guy on a skateboard. He pulled the book off the shelf with a hook, skated on his back over to the bed, where Miss Honey removed it to read with Matilda.
•Matilda is dedicated to Suzie Wilson, Mara's mother, who passed away a few months after the movie finished filming.
•Danny and Rhea loved reading to their kids, and they discovered Matilda when one of their daughters asked them to read it aloud. Thank you, little DeVitos!
•Matilda was made into a stage musical in 2010. A movie adaptation of Matilda the Musical has been planned, but can't be released until at least 2019 because of some Broadway regulations.
•The whole cast reunited in 2013 for the movie's 17th anniversary. They had a tea party in Danny Devito's back yard and re-enacted scenes from the movie. The tea party reunion is on the blu-ray edition.
•Mara Wilson grew up to be a writer, and she only acts for fun now. She wrote a play called "Sheeple", maintains an awesome blog, and is working on several books. "Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame" comes out in September 2016. Here's her link
Happy 20th, Miss Wormwood!