Emma Thompson Scared Her Co-Stars on the Set of Netflix’s ‘Matilda the Musical’

Emma Thompson may be one of the most beloved film stars, but she scared the Dickens (or, in this case, the Dahls) out of her young costars as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical on Netflix.

Beginning in 2010 as a stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel, the musical quickly became the talk of London’s prestigious West End. In 2013, it debuted on Broadway. Now, Netflix is bringing Matilda the Musical into living rooms worldwide. We are all a little scared of Thompson’s Miss Trunchbull too.   

Emma Thompson stars as Miss Trunchbull in Netflix’s ‘Matilda the Musical’

Based on Dahl’s original story, Matilda the Musical on Netflix follows 5-year-old Matilda Wormwood (played by Alisha Weir). An incredibly bright child, Matilda is withering in the unloving world of her self-absorbed parents until she is sent to Crunchem Hall Elementary School.

At the school, she meets a teacher named Miss Honey who seeks to have Matilda placed according to her exceptional gifts rather than her age. But Miss Honey is no match for the formidable Miss Trunchbull (Thompson). As Headmistress at Crunchem, Trunchbull rules with an iron fist, calling children “maggots” and punishing them with trips to a terrifying woodland pit called “chokey.”

Just as Miss Honey (played by The Woman King’s Lashana Lynch) wishes to see her students flourish, Miss Trunchbull yearns to have their spirits snuffed out. The tables turn when Matilda realizes she is even more powerful than she or Miss Honey knows.

In addition to her fierce imagination and outstanding wit, Matilda also possesses the power of telekinesis. And her bullies will get what’s coming to them, including the biggest bully of them all: Miss Trunchbull. 

Alisha Weir and Emma Thompson during a talk at a New York Special Screening of the Netflix film "Roald Dahl's Matilda: The Musical"
Stars of Netflix film Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical, Alisha Weir and Emma Thompson | Bruce Glikas/WireImage

How Thompson became Miss Trunchbull in ‘Matilda the Musical’ on Netflix

“It took six people to create Trunchbull,” Thompson says in a behind-the-scenes interview, according to Variety. But Thompson says the true challenge was that her transformation into Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical needed to be exceptional and not take forever. 

“When you’re on hours when you’re working with children,” Thompson says, “It means you just have such a short time.” To accomplish the tall order, Thompson had a team of six who simultaneously applied prosthetics to her nose and chin, painted her face in a sickly, yellow tint, and applied her chin hairs and mustache.

Adding to the character, makeup artist Naomi Donne enhanced the lines on Thompson’s face and added burst blood vessels on her skin “because [Trunchbull is] always exploding with fury.” 

Inspired by the onstage character, Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical has been played by male and female actors since its stage debut in 2010. While the prosthetics and makeup help to bring the character to life, the most important characteristic of Miss Trunchbull is that no matter who is playing her, she must be absolutely terrifying. 

Thompson excels at this in Matilda the Musical on Netflix. So much so that she terrified her young costars on set. 

Describing her experience playing Matilda, Alisha Weir says, “I had first seen without all the makeup, and then when I did see her in the makeup, it was a bit scary.” But Weir reveals that when Thompson offered her a hug, she knew “that under all the makeup, there was Emma.”

Accordingly, Matilda the Musical director Matthew Warchus told Thompson, “The children are supposed to be frightened of you and hate you. Stop hugging them.”

Reviews for ‘Matilda the Musical’ on Netflix

Related

Emma Thompson Recalls Being Rejected By Prince William When She Asked if She Could Kiss Him

Reviews for Matilda the Musical on Netflix have been overwhelmingly positive. The film currently has a spectacular 92% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with top critics raving about the movie. Newsday calls it “a textbook example of how to adapt a stage production adapted from a book to the screen without sacrificing the spirit of its author.” Likewise, ABC News calls it “just the blast of wicked fun we need.”

Audiences seem taken with the adaptation as well, applauding Matilda the Musical’s vibrant sets, catchy songs, Weir’s plucky portrayal of Matilda, and of course, Thompson’s villainous Miss Trunchbull.