Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Whatever Happened To…? – Vol. 3: Mara Wilson

I liked Zack’s new feature so much that I am usurping it for a segment.

Remember Mara Wilson?  She was everyone’s favorite adorable little kid in the ‘90s.  Too adorable.  Like kind of makes you want to puke adorable when you think about it in hindsight.  That really is not meant as a slam and it really is not Wilson’s fault.  The films she was in sort of forced her into that “child actor archetype”.

Okay, you still might be wondering who the hell I am talking about.  Remember the bizarrely popular Robin Williams film Mrs. Doubtfire?  Remember the youngest daughter who was probably traumatized due to the horrifying way Williams’s scam was revealed?  Yeah.  Her.


Yep. Now you remember.

To be fair, for a child actor about five or six years-old, she was pretty good, and the film seemed to use her well and she never outstayed her welcome.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that was why she gained some momentum and was cast in leading roles for the next few years (including preforming at the Academy Awards).

Following Mrs. Doubtfire, she appeared opposite of Richard Attenborough in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street.  Reception towards the film was largely mixed at best and it did not do all that well in the box office.  She then appeared in Matilda as the titular character.  Based on the popular Roald Dahl novel, the film was critically acclaimed, but bombed at the box office.  Still, filmmakers were still enchanted with Wilson enough to cast her in the leading role of 1997’s fantasy A Simple Wish, another film that was critically panned and horribly bombed.

Was Wilson becoming box office poison or did she just pick poor movies?  Who knows, but she was still being lauded as a promising child actor.  In 2000, she appeared in another leading role in Thomas and the Magic Railroad.  Quite a surreal movie as it mish-mashed all the various versions of Thomas the Tank Engine into one.   Making things even stranger is that the tone is all over the place and the plot is over-complicated.  By now Wilson was getting into her teens and looking a bit too old for roles like this.  And, in Thomas…, she looked extremely bored with everything around her.  I am suspicious if that was a director-inspired decision.

Then, she disappeared.

Usually in Hollywood, no one ever truly disappears.  A big star one day might become a nothing the next, but at least they would randomly pop up in some hellish direct-to-DVD film in order to make ends meet (see: Edward Furlong).  But nothing from Wilson.  She was even at the point where she didn’t even have to audition for movies anymore.  Still, she walked away.  She likely went to school and continued living her life.

All of a sudden, and out of nowhere, Mara Wilson pops up in the popular web movie review series, The Nostalgia Critic playing herself.  Through happenstance, Wilson learned that the show had featured a few of her movies in a humorously disparagingly way.  She didn’t know it the show is largely don’t tongue-in-cheek and berated host Doug Walker for it.  The internet being the internet blasted her for her comments.  Walker, in an attempt at damage control, reached out to Wilson and invited her onto the show where she jokingly mocked him the way Walker does his reviews.  It was one of those “wait…what?!” moments when she popped up.  She has since gone on to occasionally contribute to The Nostalgia Critic and its related series.


Mara Wilson today

Around the same time, Wilson started to develop a presence on the internet including her semi-regularly updated blog, her Twitter account, and writing articles for  She’s also launched a writing career in theatre and is currently looking into young adult publishing.  According to various interviews, her childhood acting career left such a sour taste in her mouth, that she has largely left that behind and is now focusing more on the “behind the scenes” stuff.

It is very unusual for a celebrity to completely disappear for over ten years to suddenly explode seemingly everywhere in the niche culture that is the internet.  And she seems extremely pleased the way things have worked out for her, and she is largely successful in her own right.  Good for her.

But what about Mrs. Doubtfire 2?  Surely her character is suffering from crippling insecurities stemming from trust issues with parents’ divorce and her father’s subsequent deception.  That’s a movie I want to see.


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