Nattie from Mrs. Doubtfire is all grown up now! If you were around in the ’90s (or are a fan of ’90s films), then you definitely know who Mara Wilson is. The young actress was one of the most beloved child stars of her generation, embarking on her career when she was just 5 years old and rising to fame as Natalie “Nattie” Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire, a 1993 comedy starring Robin Williams. Wilson quickly became known for her adorable face and the precocious way in which she delivered her lines.
While Wilson’s career held steady in the ’90s, by the early aughts, she’d disappeared from the public eye. She starred in 2000’s Thomas and the Magic Railroad, but after that, her resume holds no credits until a role in the 2011 short Missed Connection. While Wilson had a handful of TV roles over the next decade, there have been no signs of her reviving her film career.
What happened and what is Mara Wilson up to now that she’s all grown up?
Mara Wilson grew up on camera
Mara Wilson’s role as Natalie “Nattie” Hillard in the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire was just the start of her promising career. She quickly followed up that role with even meatier parts including an arc in Melrose Place and leading roles in the ’90s classics Miracle on 34th Street, Matilda, and A Simple Wish.
It seemed like Wilson was living a fairy tale, but child stardom was hard. “There was really a lot of pressure on me, I felt, from the outside world,” she told Australia’s Today Extra (via Heart).
Wilson revealed to Parade that she found fame and her career “kind of overwhelming.” The feeling was exacerbated after her mother died, just a few months after she filmed Matilda. Wilson admitted that she wished she’d quit acting after that and “maybe gone to counseling or something… because I was very famous, and when I was most famous, I was the most unhappy.”
Mara Wilson struggled with her body image
Growing up on camera put the young Mara Wilson in the public eye, and not everyone was kind to her. Wilson recounted people making disparaging comments about her looks, and this took a toll on her self-esteem. This was especially true after she hit puberty, which she wrote in a piece for The Guardian. “My sixth-grade crush had called me ugly, film reviewers said I was ‘odd looking’, and a boy at my preteen day camp had said to me, ‘You were Matilda?… You’ve gained a little weight since then!’ she recalled.
Wilson cried after that last incident, and things only got worse as she grew older and transitioned from an adorable child to a teenager who wasn’t considered classically beautiful. She began to lose roles to younger actresses and became more and more self-conscious of her appearance. At one point, Wilson even considered getting plastic surgery, hoping that it would help her flagging career.
Indeed, loving herself has been an uphill battle for Wilson. “I’m still critical of my appearance, still halfway convinced I’m irredeemably ugly,” she admitted.
This is why Mara Wilson quit acting
Mara Wilson first took a break from acting in her teens when acting roles dried up. She explained in The Guardian that, “after a year of no callbacks,” she and her father decided that she should “focus on school.” Wilson always thought she’d return to acting at some point, hoping that once she got past her “awkward” teen years she’d join the ranks “of child actors [who] reappeared after puberty, like butterflies from cocoons, fresh‑faced and ready for Neutrogena ads.”
As she grew older, though, Wilson began to look at her acting career through a different lens. In a 2012 blog post (via Us Weekly), Wilson wrote that she discovered she simply didn’t enjoy it anymore. “Film acting is not very fun,” she confessed. Additionally, Wilson said that she often felt creatively stifled on set, and called the audition process “brutal and dehumanizing.” She added, “I never feel nostalgia, just relief.”
Mara Wilson had trouble finding herself outside of her acting career
Stepping away from the acting industry was difficult for Mara Wilson. She’d been in front of the camera for most of her life, after all, but getting away from show business turned out to be a good thing for her personal growth. “I didn’t know who I was without film sets, casting directors, and constant rejection, and I needed to find out,” she wrote for The Guardian.
It didn’t help that the world saw Wilson as Matilda, even years after she played the iconic character. Wilson found that people often confused the character for her, which could be incredibly frustrating. As she told AV Club, while she and Matilda have a lot in common such as their love of books, Wilson “was never a prodigy” like her fictional counterpart. Wilson compared having portrayed the character to “living in the shadow of an older sibling,” saying that “it definitely caused some angst for a while.”
Mara Wilson decided to go to college
Going to college helped Mara Wilson carve out her own identity, although it took some work. She took acting classes at New York University, but told NPR (via MPR News) that she “would self-sabotage — because I was so afraid to let people see me as an actor.” Wilson explained that she was intimidated by all of the “good actors” at college, and it left her “terrified” and “frozen with fear.”
College was also weird for Wilson because of her childhood fame. Even though she’d “been out of the public eye for so long,” she told NYU Local, and felt more like a “former high school drama nerd” than a celebrity, people still sought her out on campus after recognizing her from her childhood roles. “It was flattering, just a little strange,” she said.
While the future of her acting career was up in the air while she was in school, Wilson nevertheless earned a drama degree from NYU.
Mara Wilson always wanted to tell her own stories
It was at New York University that Mara Wilson began to hone her talent for writing, although she’d always loved crafting her own stories. In a 1994 appearance on Today, the 7-year-old Wilson said she was thinking of becoming “a scriptwriter” saying, “I have a lot of them in my head.”
Wilson told NPR (via MPR News) that in college she “started doing performance pieces” and then “did a one-woman show.” From there, her writing career took off, and her words appeared in several publications including Jezebel, McSweeney’s, and The Daily Beast. Wilson published a memoir in 2016, Where Am I Now: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. Wilson also narrated the audiobook version and won a Shorty Award for the book in addition to being nominated for GoodReads Humor Book of the Year.
Wilson spoke to Bi.org about writing the memoir, saying “I wanted to be able to tell my own stories.” Wilson doesn’t limit herself to just one genre, though, adding, “I’m always just happy to be writing anything… I’m just happy writing.”
Mara Wilson has held down a slew of service jobs
While Mara Wilson started acting when she was a child, it didn’t exactly earn her a fortune. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Wilson has an estimated $500,000 — a comfortable nest egg, but hardly enough money to never need to work again. As she told NPR, the money she earned acting “helped… pay for college” and “was a cushion,” but that’s about it.
After she quit acting, Wilson held down a variety of odd jobs, explaining to Brokelyn that her “very strict” parents thought it was important for her “to be humble” and enter the workforce. Wilson shared that she’s been a barista, cashier, tutor, and nanny. In an ironic turn of events, the former actress even “worked at a box office,” adding that she’s “done like every service job except waitressing” unless you count a gig where she “serve[d] food at a wedding once.”
Mara Wilson has been open about her mental health struggles
Mara Wilson has dealt with anxiety for most of her life, but for years her acting career held it at bay. When the hectic pace of child stardom slowed down, though, Wilson told the Independent that her symptoms worsened. “I think that not having that in my life probably felt like coming down from some kind of high,” she revealed.
Wilson recalled being “a very anxious child,” and self-diagnosed herself with OCD, anxiety, and depression before receiving a professional diagnosis at age 12. Wilson has since become a mental health advocate, telling The Talkspace Voice, “It’s important to know when, and how, to ask for help.”
Wilson is especially committed to raising awareness about OCD. “I knew from a young age that if I grew up to have any kind of platform, I wanted to use it to speak up about OCD,” she told the International OCD Foundation. “I felt it was my responsibility.”
The important reason Mara Wilson came out as queer
Mara Wilson came out as bisexual in a 2016 tweet, although she later told Lambda Legal that she prefers the term “queer.” Wilson told the outlet that she thinks people like her who are “in a place of security and privilege” should come out. “I don’t see myself as anybody’s savior, but I’d rather it were me — who can afford therapy and afford this platform — getting harassed for being who I am than a young LGBTQ kid,” she explained. “I think it’s important.”
Despite Wilson’s admitted privilege, though, and the fact that her family and friends were supportive, coming out wasn’t easy. Wilson faced accusations of coming out “for personal attention.”
Still, Wilson told Bi.org that she is “so happy that I came out.” Wilson revealed to the outlet that she first had crushes on girls during her child star days, but it took her a while to come to terms with her sexuality, especially because she felt like she “had too much going on already” and that “being not straight would be too much baggage.”
It took a long time for Mara Wilson to connect with her fans
Even though Mara Wilson became famous at a young age, it was difficult for her to accept her fame. It wasn’t just that being a star was surreal; the actress explained to Longreads that she “didn’t feel like I deserved” to be a celebrity.
This made it difficult for her to connect with her fans when they came up to her until she got older. “My father would say, ‘They’re your fans! They like you! Appreciate it!’ But I couldn’t.”
Now, though, Wilson said that she loves interacting with her fan base, although she admitted that “there’s still a bit of a disconnect” since most of the things she’s famous for were filmed “so long ago.” Still, Wilson said she “can finally appreciate that I made a difference” and has made appearances at conventions like Toronto ComiCon and Phoenix Fan Fest.
Twitter is a big part of Mara Wilson's life
One way that Mara Wilson engages with her substantial fan base is via social media. Even younger generations who aren’t familiar with her roles in films like Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda may know her through her social media presence. Wilson has over 600,000 followers on Twitter and over 100,000 on Instagram.
Twitter has been instrumental in Wilson’s life. As she explained to Longreads, her account is more than just an outlet for self-expression — it’s also “a really good platform for connecting with people.” While some celebrities may use social media primarily to brand themselves, Wilson genuinely enjoys getting to know people on the site. “I’ve met friends, authors, and comedians on Twitter that I would haven’t met otherwise,” she continued. Wilson added that she’s even “gotten roommates” and her cat on the site.
Twitter also allows Wilson to show the many aspects of her personality. “I can be funny on Twitter,” she said. “I can be political or philosophical.”
Mara Wilson disowned her famous cousin
Mara Wilson isn’t the only famous person in her family. Her cousin is Ben Shapiro, a notoriously conservative political commentator. Shapiro is quite different from Wilson who, as noted by Jewish Currents, is “outspokenly supportive of progressive causes and of Bernie Sanders.”
Wilson told the outlet that she grew up in a conservative family and community and only found herself becoming more aware of her liberal leanings as she grew older, so it’s not surprising that her cousin has such different political views. While this could have caused friction in the family, Wilson has publicly distanced herself from Shapiro, “liking” a tweet from Padma Lakshmi criticizing her famous cousin.
Wilson also hinted that there’s a rift with more than one member of her family in a tweet in which she wrote, “Growing up is great because you get to choose which relatives you want to spend time with and which ones to cut out of your life without any regret.”
Mara Wilson spoke out against being "sexualized" by the public
Several years after she left child stardom behind, Mara Wilson spoke about just how disturbing things got in her younger years in the industry. In a piece for The Guardian in 2016, she wrote about finding her name on a foot fetish website when she was just 12 years old. A Google search turned up hits for “nude and sex pictures,” which horrified the young actress when she realized that her “head [must have been put] on someone else’s body.”
In 2021, Wilson penned a piece for The New York Times in which she wrote about being “sexualized” as a young actress, revealing that, in interviews, she was asked inappropriate questions for a 6-year-old girl, such as “Do you have a boyfriend” and who she “thought the sexiest actor was.” While Wilson said she “was never sexually harassed on a film set,” she did experience it “at the hands of the media and the public.”
In a 2016 interview with AV Club, Wilson gave a heartbreaking answer when asked why she thinks people sexualized her as a little girl. “I think that happens because they find it amusing,” she revealed.
Mara Wilson doesn't think of herself as "political"
Mara Wilson has been open about her political opinions. She backed Joe Biden in the 2020 election on Twitter, although she made it clear that he was not her preferred Democratic candidate. She’s also shared her views on Donald Trump on the platform, comparing him to “a terrifying corporate mascot come to life.”
While Wilson can be political and many see her that way, though, she doesn’t really think of herself as a political person. “I always thought being ‘political’ meant you were a cheerleader for particular political candidates and parties, and that you were convinced that what you believed was correct,” the self-confessed “leftist” told Jewish Currents.
What Wilson does believe in is not “put[ting] anyone up on a pedestal,” and working towards “justice and dignity and a future for the world.” She added, “And I think Nazis should f*** off.”
Mara Wilson revived her acting career
Mara Wilson slowly ventured back into acting in the 2010s, although she doesn’t want to return to it full time. As she told Parade, “I do act sometimes in friends’ projects but, when I do, it’s just for fun. It is actually a hobby for me now.” Wilson also explained that while she does “still love stage acting,” she also finds that “the day-to-day process of being an actor is so exhausting and so taxing.”
Since 2011, Wilson has taken on a handful of film and television roles, but they’re a far cry from the substantive roles she had as a child. Her credits as an adult include portraying herself on The Nostalgia Chick and Our Popcorn Movie Dystopia — Some More News: The Movie, as well as a cameo on Broad City, which she told Brokelyn she wanted to do out of “respect” for Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, the show’s stars and co-creators.
For the most part, though, Wilson says she has “no interest in pursuing an actual acting career. She does, however, do a fair amount of voice acting, notably voicing roles on BoJack Horseman and Big Hero 6: The Series, saying “that’s really fun for me.”
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