The Real Reason Mara Wilson Stopped Acting

If you don't know actress Mara Wilson's name offhand, you'd probably still recognize her face. Now in her 30s, the former child actor got her start in Hollywood back in 1993 when she was cast as Natalie Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. She proceeded to win hearts with her performances in Miracle on 34th Street and Matilda

While fans of those classic films still adore the precocious youngster's early work, they would be hard-pressed to find Wilson in any modern movies because, outside of the occasional guest appearance, Wilson left the business years ago. But why did Wilson stop acting? Because the casting directors stopped calling.

"After a year of no callbacks, my father said what we had both been thinking: 'Maybe you should just focus on school right now,'" Wilson wrote in an article for The Guardian. "It meant having to pass up some great scripts — like an 'experimental' comedy series called Arrested Development — but it was the right move."

She continued, "I didn't know who I was without film sets, casting directors and constant rejection, and I needed to find out."

Although Wilson "had a good ear for dialogue" and "could read [her] lines" at an early age, per NPRshe soon recognized that her talents couldn't overshadow puberty in an industry obsessed with appearance. "I had good experiences [in Hollywood], but I always knew there were girls much prettier than I was, and I knew that I was always competing with them," she told People. "That has followed me my whole life."

Mara Wilson doubted herself in a superficial industry

For Mara Wilson, rejection was part of the job. But as Wilson wrote in her memoir Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, the industry's growing lack of interest didn't make sense until she was called to audition for the "fat girl" in a pilot. "I realized, 'I don't fit their idea of what a Hollywood actress looks like, so there's no room for me here,' she told People. "It's hard to come out of that sane and without some serious doubts about yourself."

Wilson understood that "being pretty mattered" at every turn. "The pretty girls at school had always had an air of superiority, but once we hit puberty, they seemed to matter more," she wrote for The Guardian. "My career was the only thing I had over them. Now that it was waning, I was just another weird, nerdy, loud girl with bad teeth and bad hair, whose bra strap was always showing."

"As I saw it," she wrote, "I had three choices: get cosmetic surgery and go out on auditions for the cute and funny best friend characters, stay the way I was and go out for the meager character actor roles for young women, or accept myself and give up the idea of a Hollywood film acting career for good."

While Wilson felt a "great weight lifted" after leaving Hollywood, for some time, it was her only lifeline.

Mara Wilson said acting was the only 'constant' after her mother's death

Shortly after filming for Matilda wrapped, Mara Wilson's mother lost her battle with breast cancer just 13 months after her initial diagnosis. Wilson told NPR she was depressed and anxious in the aftermath and that she could "barely even remember Matilda coming out [in theaters]."

"I only have vague memories of the premiere, and it was really hard for me," Wilson said. "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. It was something where, when it was done, I didn't know what to do with myself."

She continued, "Sometimes I wish I had stopped [acting] after Matilda because I think that that was really the peak for me. There wasn't really anywhere that I could go from there," Wilson added. "I think it would have been a good time to re-evaluate things. But I think that after my mother died, I felt like I had to keep going because film was the only constant in my life."

"When I was alone, I could admit to myself that acting wasn't as fun as it had once been," she wrote for The Guardian. "But I had to keep doing it, didn't I? It was the constant in my life. My family had changed, my body had changed, my life had changed. Sometimes it felt like acting was all I had."

Mara Wilson's fans still adore her, but she has no plans to return to film

Despite the decades that have passed since her last big role, Mara Wilson revealed that fans frequently recognize her to this day. "People keep telling me that I look the same," Wilson told Parade in 2013. "They'll say that I haven't changed. Sometimes people will say that I look different but that there's 'something about me,' but most of the time they say I haven't changed. And I'm like, 'Well, yes, I am the same person.'"

"For a long time, I didn't really understand that these people were genuinely my fans and that they really actually liked me," she added. "For me, acting was just a hobby. But now I can see the looks on their faces and see what it meant to them, especially with Matilda. It's impressive and humbling."

Yet while Wilson appreciates the recognition, she has no desire to return to film. Instead, the former child actor prefers to channel her creativity into writing stories and dialogue. "Acting is something I did when I was a kid," Wilson explained. "I do act sometimes in friends' projects but, when I do, it's just for fun. It is actually a hobby for me now."

She added, "I do still love stage acting, but the day-to-day process of being an actor is so exhausting and so taxing. There are parts here and there that I'd like to play, but they're not as interesting to me as writing."

Mara Wilson prefers the creative freedom she's found on the theatre stage

If fans hope to see Mara Wilson act again, they'll have to look to the stage. Wilson revealed that, while film acting isn't very fun, theatre offers her the creative freedom and adrenaline rush she could never find on a movie set. "Theater is about connection with an audience, being in the moment, and living a live moment onstage," Wilson explained on her blog, Mara Wilson Writes Stuff. "It's thrilling and terrifying and ephemeral. It's life."

Wilson emphasized that film isn't exciting. In fact, it's tedious, she wrote. "The celebrity aspect is nothing short of ridiculous, and auditioning is brutal and dehumanizing," she added. "Every time I see a pretty young girl on the subway reading sides for an audition, my only thought is, 'Man, am I glad I'm not doing that anymore.' I never feel nostalgia, just relief." That's why she has no plans to pursue film acting again.

"It's not my 'thing' anymore, if it ever was," she added. "Yes, I do still act sometimes. But when I do, it's with people I know and trust, people who respect me as a person and appreciate what I have to offer. Yes, I love working in theater and have always loved voice-over, but pursuing a full-time live-action film career does not appeal to me."

Oh, and "you will not ever see [her] on Dancing With The Stars," she added. Can't say we blame her!