Danny Devito Looked After Young 'Matilda' Actor While Her Mum Was Gravely Ill

Danny DeVito is a bit of a hero. We could wax lyrical about all of his classic characters - The Penguin in Batman Returns, journalist Sid Hudgens in LA Confidential and of course Louie De Palma in Taxi - as well as his late-career revival as the hilariously seedy Frank Reynolds in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

But instead we want to talk about Danny DeVito the man - it turns out that, away from the camera, he's even more of a hero. Just ask Mara Wilson, who played the young Matilda in DeVito's adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl book back in 1996.

Wilson was just nine years old when Matilda was released and was going through a major personal trauma during the making of the film, as her mother was gravely ill. In 2013, she recounted a story regarding her treatment by DeVito and his wife, Cheers star Rhea Perlman.

"I was eight years old. It was very hard," she recalled years later. "And they were very nice. While my mom was sick and in the hospital, they would invite me over and take care of me and get my mind off things. I felt very familial."

In her memoir Where Am I Now?, Wilson continued: "They're great people; they were really there for me and my family. They had a movie theater, and we'd watch Oliver & Company and Twister and all these kids' movies."

Credit: Facebook / Mar Wilson
Credit: Facebook / Mar Wilson

Tragically, Wilson's mother Suzie passed away before production of the movie was completed.

Having been encouraged to audition for the role by Suzie, the young actor was saddened that her mother hadn't lived to see the finished film film - however, according to Little Things, years later DeVito told Wilson that he had actually visited Suzie at the hospital with an early cut of the film for her to watch.

Is it me, or is it dusty in here?

It's quite the opposite of the family that Matilda endured - in which, of course, her parents were played by DeVito and Perlman - but it shows just how much the two adults cared for the on-screen child.

It isn't the only heroic story about DeVito that's currently doing the rounds.

A Redditor recently recounted meeting the veteran actor as a teenager while on a skiing holiday. He was being bullied at school at the time, only for a timely intervention from the Hollywood star.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"The experiences there seriously affected me and I was asking for help the entire time but I was never believed, which made me feel exceptionally isolated and alone," wrote MisterSeeDee on Reddit.

"I was being abused but my own family wouldn't take my word on it.

"I met a strangely familiar sounding man with a scarf over his face. He saw that I was miserable and asked me what was wrong.

"I didn't have any trouble opening up about my problems at thirteen. I would blab on and on about them (the problem is that nobody really cared). So I unloaded on this poor guy.

"He told me that he had a very similar experience when he was younger, that he had gone to a very strict Catholic boarding school. He shared some experiences with me. He understood what I was going through completely. He told me that it would pass; that one day I would be an adult and all of these things would seem very far away."

At the time, the boy did not realise that he was speaking to Danny DeVito - that is, until his wife arrived and he recognised her from her appearances as waitress Carla Tortelli on Cheers.

Of course, this could all be made up, right? Well, not if one heavy-hitter is to be believed. News of the Redditor's story made it to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who commented on the original post using his GovSchwarzenegger username, writing: "What an incredible story. Thank you for sharing. You're right.

"Danny is a good man (one of the best), and I know he will love to hear that some of his advice helped you become a great man, although I can tell you always had it in you. I'm going to send this to him so he can see it."

The username was confirmed to be Schwarzenegger himself during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session.

Featured Image Credit: PA / TriStar Pictures

Mike Wood

Mike Meehall Wood is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for LADbible, VICE and countless sports publications, focusing on rugby league, football and boxing. He is a graduate of Leeds University and maintains a fizzy pop obsession. Contact Mike at [email protected]

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