Roald Dahl’s Matilda has inspired children everywhere since the book’s initial release in 1988. Although the book has always been popular with young people, it truly rose to fame after the 1996 film adaptation starring Mara Wilson, Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito.
Wilson was a revelation in the title role of Matilda, showing her depth as an actress despite her young age. Her performance was backed up by brilliant performances from the other young children playing her classmates, as well as great turns by DeVito and Perlman as her parents and by Pam Ferris as the tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull.
Appearing in a film as classic as Matilda is obviously a great thing for an actor to have on their resume, so it’s no surprise that some of the film’s actors and actresses have gone on to do great things in Hollywood. Many of the child actors who left the entertainment industry after appearing in the film have also gone on to do great things in the world, proving, just like Matilda did, that a little bit of ingenuity and hard work can get you anywhere.
Here is what the cast of Matilda is doing now.
15. Jon Lovitz (host of Million Dollar Sticky)
Lovitz’s appearance in Matilda was brief; so brief, in fact, that he was actually not credited as working on the film. However, he did appear, showing off his hosting skills as Mickey, the loud, brash entertainer in charge of Million Dollar Sticky, the show that the Wormwoods watch over dinner.
Lovitz, a former Saturday Night Live cast member, has continued to have a successful career in comedy since appearing in the Roald Dahl film. He has appeared in small roles in a number of Adam Sandler films, including Little Nicky, Eight Crazy Nights and a memorable turn as a rival wedding singer in 1998’s The Wedding Singer. He is also known for appearing in films like Big and The Producers, and for lending his voice to The Simpsons and the Hotel Transylvania series.
Lovitz also tried to venture into stand-up comedy, opening his first club in San Diego in 2007 and a second in Universal City in 2009. However, despite appearances by Lovitz’s famous friends, including David Spade, Ralphie May and Kevin Nealon, the club still closed its doors in 2014.
14. Jacqueline Steiger (Amanda Thripp)
Amanda Thripp isn’t in pigtails anymore, as actress Jacqueline Steiger is all grown up. Steiger followed up her appearance in Matilda as a young actress by acting in films like Dennis the Menace Strikes Again! and Beautiful. She also appeared in TV shows like Dharma & Greg and Judging Amy.
Steiger decided to take a break from acting in 2001, going off to attend the University of California: Los Angeles, where she was summa cum laude and earned a BA in linguistics and anthropology with a minor in LGBT studies. Since then, she has resumed acting, appearing in the web series Force Push and the short film Rise of the Kitchen Appliances.
Steiger is also an accomplished singer, performing at Carnegie Hall with the El Camino College Women’s Choir. She also performed as Tara in Buffy the Musical.
13. Marion Dugan (Cookie)
Dugan’s role in Matilda was small but memorable: she played Cookie, Trunchbull’s chef who gets the honor of carrying out the incredibly large cake that the principal then forces Bruce Bogtrotter to eat in front of the whole school. Dugan has not acted very much, appearing in small roles in films like The Cable Guy and Brain Donors. She hasn’t gained any credits since her 1999 appearance in Shasta McNasty.
However, the Dugan name has not disappeared from Hollywood, with Marion’s son, Dennis Dugan, appearing as a frequent Adam Sandler collaborator. Dugan has acted in Sandler films like Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore and Grown Ups.
He is also a well-known director, lending his talents behind the camera to Sandler vehicles like You Don’t Mess With the Zohan and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. He also wrote and will be directing the upcoming Dognapped! Dugan took his mom to the 2011 premiere of Jack and Jill, which he appeared in and directed.
12. Jean Speegle Howard (Miss Phelps)
Howard appeared as the friendly librarian Miss Phelps in Matilda, giving our young heroine her first introduction into the world of literature. Howard, who was already well-known before appearing in the film for roles in Apollo 13 and Scrooged, went on to appear in TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Two of a Kind, as well as films like Mr. Murder, Spoiler and The Night Caller. Her last credit was 2000’s The Hiding Place, the last film she appeared in before her death on September 2, 2000.
Howard is survived in Hollywood by her very famous son, Ron Howard. The younger Howard has been nominated for two Oscars (best motion picture and best achievement in directing for Frost/Nixon) and has won two (best picture and best director for A Beautiful Mind). Together with frequent collaborator Brian Grazer, Howard is also responsible for executive producing the cult hit Arrested Development, a series to which he also lent his voice as the narrator. Ron dedicated 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which he directed, to his late mother.
11. Kiami Davael (Lavender)
Davael, who played Matilda’s best friend Lavender in the film, is still friends with her co-stars, tweeting a picture of her and Mara Wilson at lunch in February of 2015 and calling the two “BFF”’s. Aside from making us all go crazy with her great throwbacks, Davael has kept fairly quiet in the acting world since appearing in Matilda. She had a recurring guest role on the TV series In the House, and also guested on shows like The Pretender, Conan the Adventurer, Promised Land, The Steve Harvey Show and Grown Ups. Her last film credit was in 2000’s Bruno with Shirley MacLaine, Gary Sinise and Kathy Bates.
Davael went to the University of Kentucky, graduating in 2008 with a degree in psychology. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Since her graduation, Davael has continued to work in the entertainment industry, writing the short film Reckless in 2012 and appearing as a featured singer on Grammy winning producer Devine Evans’ project Sheet Music: The Diary of A Song Writer, a book and CD soundtrack aimed to help expose “the sexual injustices female artists can encounter while chasing their dream of a career in the music industry.”
10. Brian Levinson (Michael Wormwood)
Levinson, who played the Wormwood’s preferred child, Michael, got to spend most of the movie staring at the TV. The 34 year old actor has chosen a much more active career than his character would have, though, as, according to his Facebook page, he is currently working at Larrick Construction in Chatsworth, California.
Levinson appeared in a few TV shows and films before landing the role of Michael in Matilda, including Predator 2, Roseanne, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Father and Scout. However, it appears that the acting bug did not stick with him, as his last credit was a guest starring role on a 1997 episode of Seinfeld.
Levinson has remained out of the public eye since then, although he did make a trip out to the 2013 cast reunion. Based on his Facebook page, he graduated from California State University, Northridge in 2007. He is married and appears to have a daughter, who he’s passing on his love of Los Angeles sports teams to.
9. Kira Spencer Hesser (Hortensia)
Hesser, who played Hortensia, one of Matilda’s classmates, took a 15 year break from acting after the movie’s release before jumping back into the fray with 2011’s Smooch. During her time off, Hesser got her Master’s in modern literature and spent time training in improv comedy with Second City and the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Hesser is currently the host of the PBS series Islands Without Cars, which looks at different islands on the world that do not use automobiles and examines how their citizens get around. The series, which was co-created by Hesser’s mother, has allowed the actress and comedian to travel all over the world, exploring islands like the Greek island of Hydra, France’s Isle of Porquerolles and Ireland’s Inis Meain.
Hesser wrote and directed the 2014 dark comedy short Immobile Home. She also stars in and produces the web series Happy And You Know It and has written articles for a number of web and print publications, including Flaunt Magazine, Refinery29, Tastemade, Bunch Magazine and Ordinary Girl. Hesser is married, and designed her own dress for the big day.
8. Pam Ferris (Trunchbull)
Miss Trunchbull was the source of nightmares for children everywhere after her run terrorizing Matilda and her classmates with her medieval hammer throw and Chokey punishment methods. Ferris played the role with aplomb, doing so well that she earned herself a Saturn Award nomination for best supporting actress. She has since called the role her favorite that she has ever played.
After Matilda, Ferris appeared on the British TV drama Where The Heart Is and in the film Death to Smoochy with Robin Williams and Edward Norton. The film was directed by Danny DeVito, who also directed Matilda.
Ferris will also be recognizable to Harry Potter fans as Aunt Marge, the Dursley who Harry accidentally inflates in Prisoner of Azkaban. Since then, Ferris has appeared on TV series Rosemary and Thyme, Little Dorrit and Luther. Her most recent role was a memorable turn as the feisty nun Sister Evangelina on BBC’s award-winning Call the Midwife.
7. Tracey Walter (FBI Agent Bill)
Walter starred as one of the FBI Agents investigating Mr. Wormwood’s seedy car agency in the film. Although he was in charge of chasing down Danny DeVito’s character in the film, he and DeVito are actually good friends, with DeVito and his on-screen and real-life wife, Rhea Perlman, serving as god parents for Walter’s daughter Polly, who worked on Matilda as an assistant editor.
Walter is an incredibly prolific actor, with almost 175 acting credits to his name since he started acting in 1971. Some of his most memorable roles include an appearance in Julia Roberts’ Erin Brockovich, recurring guest star roles on Nash Bridges and Reno 911! and an appearance in the DeVito starring TV show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. For upcoming work, he will make an appearance in the western drama Boone, a film based on the life of Kentucky cannibal Boone Helm, starring Lorin McCraley and Lorenzo Lamas, which does not currently have a release date.
6. Paul Reubens (FBI Agent Bob)
You probably recognize Reubens’ face, but you might not recognize the name. That’s because the actor, who played the other half of the FBI team in Matilda, is best known for his famous character Pee-wee Herman, who he developed while working as an improv comic at The Groundlings in the 1970s. The character quickly became a sensation, appearing in TV series and specials like The Pee-Wee Herman Show, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Pee-wee’s Playhouse and, most recently, Netflix’s Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. The character was also the star of a Broadway musical The Pee-wee Herman Show in 2010. For many years, Reubens did all of his public appearances in character as Herman, and in 1985 he even hosted Saturday Night Live under the alias.
Outside of his Herman character, Reubens has also been seen with Johnny Depp in Blow and has lent his voice to a number of TV series and movies, including Rugrats, The Smurfs and TRON: Uprising. Most recently, he has had multi-episode guest starring roles on The Blacklist and Gotham.
5. Embeth Davidtz (Miss Honey)
Davidtz played the role of Matilda’s mentor and later adoptive mother Miss Honey in the film, showing her caring and smarts as she guided the young heroine through her formative years. Davidtz, who grew up in South Africa, has continued to act since appearing in Matilda, in addition to getting married and raising two children.
Davidtz notably starred in 1999’s Bicentennial Man with Robin Williams, playing two parts, Amanda “Little Miss” Martin and her granddaughter, Portia Charney. She also appeared as Daniel’s colleague in Renee Zellweger’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, and has had guest starring roles on TV series Citizen Baines, Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy, In Treatment and Californication. Most recently, she had a recurring guest starring on Mad Men as the wife of Jared Harris’ Lane Pryce and appeared in both of the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spiderman films as Peter’s mother Mary.
4. Jimmy Karz (Bruce Bogtrotter)
Karz has had one of the biggest physical transformations of all of the Matilda kids, showing off his new look at the 2013 cast reunion and proving that he is no longer the chubby kid who was forced to eat chocolate cake in front of the whole school. Karz says that the famous scene took about three weeks to film, causing him to become sick of the smell of chocolate for weeks following.
Karz, who is now 31 years old, only has two acting credits besides Matilda: a guest starring role on ER and a memorable stint as a young boy at a bar mitzvah who grabs Drew Barrymore’s butt in The Wedding Singer.
While in college, Karz worked as production associate at MTV News for multiple years, but, after getting into gardening, he became interested in science and decided to start studying biochemistry. Karz is now a student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and has begun his clinical rotations.
3. Danny DeVito (Mr. Wormwood)
DeVito starred as the film’s clueless Mr. Wormwood, but he proved that he’s not as dumb as his character by also taking on the role of director behind the camera. The film is one of DeVito’s many off-screen credits, which also include working as an executive producer on Reno 911!, directing Throw Momma From the Train and producing Erin Brockovich, earning him an Academy Award nomination for best picture.
However, DeVito is still most known as an actor, bringing his comedic skills to over 125 movies and TV shows over since 1970. These include, most notably, appearing as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s not quite identical twin in 1988’s Twins, Penguin in Michael Keaton’s Batman Returns and voicing Philoctetes in Disney’s Hercules. Since 2006, he has been starring in the FX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as the foul-mouthed Frank Reynolds.
He will also reprise his Twins role in the upcoming Triplets, in which he and Schwarzenegger find out they have a third brother, who is rumored to be played by Eddie Murphy. The script for Triplets, written by Frozen’s Josh Gad along with Ryan Dixon, is complete, but the project has yet to set a start date for filming.
2. Rhea Perlman (Mrs. Wormwood)
Perlman quickly set herself up as one of the biggest actresses in comedy with her role as Carla Tortelli on Cheers, a part which earned her six Golden Globe nominations, six Emmy nominations and four Emmy wins. She landed the role of the misguided Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda three years after the series ended.
Perlman has continued to act in TV and movies, appearing in 2006 dramedy 10 Items or Less and landing recurring guest roles on series like Hung and Kirstie. Perlman also lent her voice to Robot and Monster. Most recently, she has appeared in a recurring role as Danny’s mother Annette on The Mindy Project, a role which has quickly become a favorite among fans of the show.
Perlman has also been married to Matilda co-star DeVito since 1982, although the pair had a brief separation from October 2012 to March of 2013. They have three children together. The two currently live together in Beverly Hills.
1. Mara Wilson (Matilda)
Mara Wilson was one of the most prolific child actors of the 90’s, starring in films like Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams and Miracle on 34th Street with Richard Attenborough, along with playing the titular character in Matilda.
Wilson gave up acting once she got into her teens, though, saying that film acting no longer felt fun for her. She instead chose to focus on writing, with her first play, Sheeple, premiering at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2013. She graduated from New York University and currently works for Publicolor, a non-profit that paints schools in order to help improve learning.
Wilson has made a few forays back into the film world over time, though, most recently appearing as a waitress on Comedy Central’s Broad City in the series’ spoof of Mrs. Doubtfire. She has since made comments on what it was like being a child actor and how she avoided becoming a child actor gone wrong, penning an article for Cracked titled “7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy (An Insider’s Perspective).” She has also remained active on social media, particularly Twitter, and runs a blog on her website called Mara Wilson Writes Stuff.