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Matilda star Mara Wilson recalls being sexualized as a child actor

Matilda star Mara Wilson recalls being sexualized as a child actor

Mara Wilson is opening up about the tolls of stardom as a child actor.

The actress, who began her Hollywood career at the age of 6 following a breakout role in Mrs. Doubtfire, looked back at being sexualized as a child star in a new interview with The Guardian.

"I don't think you can be a child star without there being some kind of lasting damage," Wilson said. "The thing that people assume is that Hollywood is inherently corrupt, and there's something about being on film sets that destroys you. For me, that was not necessarily true. I always felt safe on film sets... I think that's because I worked with a lot of really wonderful directors, who were used to working with children."

Her parents had been protective and made sure she only worked in children's movies, "but I was still sexualized" by the world at large, including adult men who would contact her, Wilson said. "I had people sending me inappropriate letters and posting things about me online," she said. "I made the mistake of Googling myself when I was 12 and saw things that I couldn't unsee."

WESTWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 14: Mara Wilson attends the premiere of Lionsgate's "Knives Out" at Regency Village Theatre on November 14, 2019 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 14: Mara Wilson attends the premiere of Lionsgate's "Knives Out" at Regency Village Theatre on November 14, 2019 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/FilmMagic)

Alberto E. Rodriguez/FilmMagic Mara Wilson

"People don't realize how much constantly talking to the press as a child weighs on you," Wilson said, recalling times journalists would ask her, then age 7, about french kissing and which actors she found "sexiest." Wilson also spoke about living in the shadow of Matilda, the character she played in the 1996 film based on Roald Dahl's novel about a young girl gifted with intellect and psychic powers.

"I saw that [fans] were disappointed that I wasn't as smart, pretty, nice, as they expect you to be. I think they were expecting me to be Matilda, and she's wonderful, but she's not real," Wilson said. "She's brilliant in every single way. She's smart, and kind and powerful. Then they met me, this nerdy, awkward teenager who got angry sometimes, but couldn't even channel her anger into powers. I was never going to live up to that."

Mara Wilson as Matilda in 'Matilda'
Mara Wilson as Matilda in 'Matilda'

TriStar Pictures/Everett Mara Wilson as Matilda in 'Matilda'

By the time she hit puberty, Hollywood "was kind of done with me," she said. When she was 12, she recalled a director on set asking her to wear a sports bra to flatten her breasts. "It affected me for a very long time because I had this Hollywood idea that if you're not cute any more, if you're not beautiful, then you are worthless," Wilson said. "Because I directly tied that to the demise of my career. Even though I was sort of burned out on it, and Hollywood was burned out on me, it still doesn't feel good to be rejected."

"For a long time," she continued, "I had this kind of dysmorphia about the way that I looked and I obsessed about it too much."

Wilson has been a vocal advocate for fellow child stars, having previously penned essays that slammed the sexualization of Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown and treatment of singer Britney Spears.

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