What ever happened to the little girl from Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire? Where Am I now? is the autobiography of Mara Wilson, who went from child actor to awkward teenager to playwright and stage performer.
Where Am I Now? is a series of very personal introspective essays, which makes it a much more interesting read than the standard self-serving autobiographies which most celebrities produce.
Despite being a child star and coming from a happy home, Mara suffered from OCD and many anxieties. There was a time as a little girl when she was obsessed with death to the point where it was all she could think about.
Mara’s mother was definitely not a stereotypical pushy “stage mother”. She was happy that Mara was a successful actress, but also made sure Mara took her schoolwork seriously and never became stuck-up. Unfortunately Mara’s mother died of cancer during the filming of the movie Matilda.
Danny DeVito is one of the heroes of Where Am I Now?. He was always kind to Mara and was a comfort to her when Mara’s mother died . He and his wife Reah Perlman treated Mara like a member of the family and she loved them for it. Mara was upset that her mother never got to see Matilda. Years later Mara found out that before the film was even complete Danny DeVito had taken a print of the film to the hospital and had done a special screening in the cancer ward. Mara’s mother did get to see her little girl as Matilda after all.
Like many child stars, Mara reached a point where she understood she would never become a star as an adult. In her teens she went to auditions where she met a couple of other actresses. They were friendly and Mara liked them very much. But Mara immediately realized she could not compete with them. One was Kirsten Stewart and the other was Scarlett Johansson.
However, it was the normal petty slights and meanness in middle and high school that bothered Mara much more than any competition for acting jobs. Mara’s comment about high school girls is something that thousands of other young women have felt for decades. Mara states that:
“The ones who scared me, who still scare me, are the girls who see all other girls as competition, who see themselves as the persecuted ones, the ones the pretty and popular girls hate. When you believe you’re persecuted, you will believe anything you do is justified.”
Mara is an excellent writer. She captures the essence of the struggles of a sensitive girl growing up in an ever changing environment. Mara stresses how important is is for women to be supportive of each other. She says,
“A lot of men wonder what a woman wants. The answer is power. There are many ways to get it, but the easiest way is to tear other girls down. Any girl can play that game, but there’s no way to win, except not to play at all.”
Mara was very upset over the suicide of Robin Williams. She says that Robin had been wonderful with the kids on the set of Mrs. Doubtfire, keeping them entertained and telling them jokes. Mara kept in touch with Robin Williams through the years, and as an adult came to realize that he was actually a very shy person who had trouble communicating when he was not performing.
So where is Mara Wilson now? After graduating from NYU, she stayed in New York. Mara Wilson writes plays, has a blog and performs stories at various small clubs. She is very happy with her life.
Mara speaks of when she first moved to New York, and describes it by saying:
“I was terrified, and there was nothing I could do but get used to it. New York, I soon learned, wasn’t so much scary as it was indifferent. In Los Angeles, I had felt judged. In New York, I felt ignored. Sometimes that was what I wanted: to disappear. But sometimes I wanted to be cared for, to belong, and I had to find that myself, because the city would not provide it on its own.”
Mara Wilson did find a way to belong, by becoming part of New York’s artistic community. She faced her fears by expressing her deepest thoughts and emotions in her writing and stage performances. Of course, this kind of exposure has its risks. Audiences can be mean or worse, indifferent. Internet trolls are always ready to pounce and ridicule.
We are glad that Mara took the risk bare her emotions in her writings and performances. As Robin Williams once said:
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”