Danny DeVito looked after young Matilda star while her mum was gravely ill 1 week ago

Danny DeVito looked after young Matilda star while her mum was gravely ill

Frank Reynolds's real-life alter-ego turns 77 today

Hollywood icon and current birthday boy Danny DeVito may have spent decades cultivating a thriving career on the big and small screen - however as the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia star spends the day celebrating his 77th birthday, we're turning our attention to his glowing reputation in real life.

Advertisement

One story involving DeVito and the young star of his 1996 kids' classic Matilda quickly caught our eye.

As reported in multiple outlets, it was during DeVito's stint as director of this hit Roald Dahl adaptation where he proved just what a warm-natured guy he really was - and it's about as a far from his turn as frosty villain the Penguin in Batman Returns as you can get.

Matilda may have been the movie that made 9-year-old actor Mara Wilson a household name but for its young heroine, it was a troubling time. Just as production got underway, Wilson discovered that her mother Suzie had been diagnosed with breast cancer and the prognosis wasn't great.

As she soldiered on with the film's schedule, DeVito and his wife Rhea Perlman of Cheers fame quickly became surrogate parent figures, guiding her through the shoot and providing some much needed support.

"I was eight years old. It was very hard," recalled Wilson, writing in her candid 2016 memoir Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. "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.

"They're great people; they were really there for me and my family. They had a movie theatre, and we'd watch Oliver & Company and Twister and all these kids' movies," she continues.

Advertisement

However as DeVito wrapped production on Matilda, the health of Wilson's mother took a turn for the worst and she sadly passed away before the film was released, aged just 42.

As it was Suzie who had encouraged Wilson to audition for the role that she would quickly become synonymous for, DeVito felt that she should get to see her daughter's hard work - and so he arranged a private screening of a rough-cut of the movie in the hospital shortly before her passing.

It was something that Wilson only discovered years later, revealing it during an interview with pop-culture outlet Little Things.

As if that wasn't enough to help convince you that DeVito isn't quite as heartless as his gun-wielding It's Always Sunny character Frank, a Redditor also shared a story about the Get Shorty star that's guaranteed to warm the cockles.

After spending years being bullied by his own family, a user known only as MisterSeeDee recalled a chance encounter with a mysterious man who asked him what was up. What followed was a brief conversation that assured him that things would ultimately work out.

Advertisement

"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."

Turns out that mysterious stranger was... you guessed it: Dr Mantis Toboggan himself, Danny DeVito.

The story was even certified shortly after by DeVito's long-time friend and creative partner Arnold Schwarzenegger, who added: "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."

So whenever you're feeling like the world's a dark, helpless place, full of terrible people - remember there's folks like DeVito knocking about and have your day instantly brightened.

Advertisement

Also, we should all probably do a whip-round for a birthday card.

Related links: