Why Did Mara Wilson Quit Acting?

There are a number of child stars who have been attached to projects that stand the test of time. These young actors are forever defined by those roles and the films that they appeared in.

One such star is Mara Wilson, who acted in two of the most popular family films of the early ’90s, Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street. Although Wilson reached the pinnacle of fame well before she became a teenager, she ultimately decided to step away from the acting business — and over the years, she has opened up several times about why she decided to turn her back on the movie industry. 

Mara Wilson attends the premiere of BBC America and AMC's "Killing Eve" Season 2 at ArcLight Hollywood on April 01, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Mara Wilson | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

How did Mara Wilson get into acting?

Wilson was born in Burbank, California, in 1987. She was raised in a family with connections to the entertainment industry, and as a toddler, she became interested in acting when she witnessed her older brother acting in television commercials.

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While Wilson’s parents weren’t originally on board with their young daughter getting involved in the acting business, they eventually relented. And, in short order, the adorable child was acting in commercials for brands such as Lunchables and Marshalls.

After working in television commercials for a few months, Wilson auditioned for the part of Natalie Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. Producers were impressed by Wilson’s quick ability to learn dialogue, and she won the role. Ultimately, the film would make Wilson a star, opening the door to other opportunities in the film world. 

What is Mara Wilson best known for?

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Following the success of Mrs. Doubtfire, Wilson was cast in the film Miracle on 34th Street. The film, a remake of the 1947 holiday classic, was an instant hit, and only served to solidify Wilson’s status as an up-and-coming young Hollywood star.

Wilson could have had her pick of roles, but the young actress was choosy and didn’t appear again in a major film role until 1996 when Matilda was released. 

For her work in the movie, Wilson was nominated for a slew of awards, including winning the YoungStar Award for Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film. Matilda remains popular with fans to this day, and the film is likely Wilson’s most popular work. 

Why did Mara Wilson decide to retire from acting?

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In the years that followed the release of Matilda, Wilson appeared in a handful of other films, including Thomas and the Magic Railroad. After that, Wilson decided to retire from acting. Speaking to NPR, Wilson revealed that by the time she appeared in her last movie role, she already felt disenchanted with the film business.

“I was very depressed, I was very anxious, I can barely even remember Matilda coming out. I only have vague memories of the premiere, and it was really hard for me. So I think that I definitely became kind of disenchanted with acting, with Hollywood, while, at the same time, it was a crutch for me,” Wilson stated.

She revealed that going through puberty on film sets was horribly awkward and that eventually, she passed up the “cute” child actor phase and stopped being considered for certain prime roles.

“There wasn’t like one big moment where I knew I was done. … The rejection hurt because it had been just such a prominent part of my life for so long,” Wilson said.

The young performer decided to step away from acting for good in order to focus on writing. To this day, Wilson works as a writer and director, and although she has since acted in a few small roles, primarily voiceovers, she has chosen a whole new life for herself — far away from the spectacle of Hollywood.