Many child actors have spoken out about the problems with growing up in front of millions of cinema-goers, and Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire star Mara Wilson has opened up about how being sexualized by the internet was a struggle for her, and how being a child star casts a long shadow over the years that follow. While speaking to The Guardian, the actress recalled how being a young star who had just lost her mother to breast cancer saw her in places where things were not always appropriate, and would always leave a mark even if she never felt “unsafe.” She said:
“I don’t think you can be a child star without there being some kind of lasting damage. 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. There were definitely some sketchy, questionable things that happened at times – adults that told dirty jokes, or sexually harassed people in front of me. People who did things like ask me if it was OK if I worked overtime, instead of asking my parents, but I never felt unsafe. I think that’s because I worked with a lot of really wonderful directors, who were used to working with children.”
Mara Wilson Saw The Darker Side of Fame At The Age of 12.
While she may have felt safe on film sets, Mara Wilson found out at a young age that there was an underlying issue in Hollywood that she would rather have not experienced. Between finding her face superimposed on to adult movie star bodies and being asked awkward questions from journalists, she explained that it was something that was hard to get through.
“If [my mother] didn’t like the way that something was going, she would not hesitate to make her concerns known, but I was still sexualized. I had people sending me inappropriate letters and posting things about me online. I made the mistake of Googling myself when I was 12 and saw things that I couldn’t unsee.”
As if this was not bad enough, Wilson also found that as she turned from “the cute girl from Matilda” into a young teenager, Hollywood was quick to turn its back on her, which was hard to take. She continued:
“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. 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, I had this kind of dysmorphia about the way that I looked and I obsessed about it too much. You think, ‘I’m ugly, I’m fat’ – and there were actual websites and newspapers and movie reviewers saying that about me. It got to the point where I became much more guarded, more anxious and depressed and cynical, and when you’re like that, it’s very hard to land a role, because in an audition, you have to be open and honest. It took a toll on me.”
Wilson has mostly moved into voice work on audiobooks and podcasts, as well as writing. She currently doesn’t see herself returning to screen acting anytime soon, as she just wants to be herself and not have to conform to Hollywood requirements. As she ended:
“I defined myself for so long by the media’s terms, by Hollywood’s terms, instead of defining myself by my own goals, my own relationships, my own life.”
This story originally appeared on Movieweb