10 fun facts you should know about the new 'Matilda' movie musical

The creators of the acclaimed stage show have adapted the story for the screen.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Welcome to Crunchem Hall! The revolting children of Matilda the Musical have hit the big screen in a new film adaptation. BAFTA and Oscar winner Emma Thompson stars as Miss Trunchbull alongside Alisha Weir as Matilda and Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey.

The story of Matilda, an intelligent, telekinetic young bookworm who stands up to her school's nasty headmistress, began as a novel by Roald Dahl before becoming a hit film in 1996. In 2010, the musical adaptation premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon and is still going strong in London's West End.

Fans of any previous Matilda properties will find a similar surplus of heart, playfulness, and beautiful design. But you'll find plenty of details unique to the new film, too. At a recent screening in the U.S., the cast and creative team shared some behind-the-scenes facts to keep an eye out for when watching.

Matilda the Musical premiered in U.K. theatres in November and will go on Netflix in summer 2023. In the meantime, read more about the film below and get tickets to see Matilda the Musical in the West End.

Book Matilda the Musical tickets on London Theatre.

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Most of the musical's creative team is behind the movie.

If you love Matilda on stage, you'll be happy to know that every bit of the whimsy remains intact on screen. The Matilda musical has a script written by Dennis Kelly, songs by Tim Minchin, and direction by Matthew Warchus. All three returned for the film adaptation.

Other returning creative team members include costume designer Rob Howell and choreographer Ellen Kane, who assisted the stage show's lead choreographer, Peter Darling.

More than 200 child actors are in the Matilda movie.

That's a lot of young talent! Even before the movie's release, audiences had already fallen in love with the child ensemble when a clip of one of the biggest musical numbers, "Revolting Children," went viral. Meesha Garbett, better known as "Red Beret Girl," got particular attention on TikTok for her dancing.

Alisha Weir, who plays Matilda, is just as smart as her character.

According to Warchus, Weir would always nail her scenes after only a brief discussion or a few notes. "Most of [her] scenes are [her] first or second take," he said.

"She also remembered my lines," Vee added. "So many times, I would just blank, and she would lean over and say [my line]... It was also helpful for me to only have to do a few takes!"

Emma Thompson had to undergo special training to play Miss Trunchbull.

More specifically, she had to pick up an uncommon skill. "I had to learn how to throw a hammer," Thompson said. "A wonderful professional hammer thrower came and taught me."

In the movie, Miss Trunchbull is a champion in the sport, having earned medals for it. She puts those skills to use in a famous scene where she throws a girl across the schoolyard by her pigtails.

The Trunchbull outfit includes an unusual costume piece.

Costume designer Rob Howell (who also designed the Broadway and West End productions) found pictures of workers who constructed bridges in San Francisco, California — they wore those heavy boots to keep them underwater while building. Look closely, and you'll see that Trunchbull wears the same kind.

Actress Sindhu Vee had a similar real-life role model as Matilda.

Matilda finds comfort in the library run by Mrs. Phelps, who Vee plays. Phelps's company, and an endless supply of books, is Matilda's favorite escape from her uncaring parents and Trunchbull's bullying. Vee, who was bullied as a child for having a stammer, can relate.

"I had a teacher who never explicitly talked about it, but who let me stay during recess to read books," Vee said. "She knew if I went out, I would get clobbered."

Matilda avoids fully opening up to Mrs. Phelps about her problems, though, which Vee understands. She brings that compassion to her character, who doesn't pry but is always there to listen.

"[My teacher] never talked about what the problem was, she just said, 'Stay with your books, it's fine.' So with Mrs. Phelps, [she] never really probed too much, and she let Matilda tell stories and she gave her books, and she was a companion to Matilda."

Matilda showcases live circus performers.

Throughout the movie, Matilda tells Mrs. Phelps an original story about an acrobat and an escape artist who wish have a child. With that dream looking less likely every day, they attempt a daring and possibly deadly circus stunt.

As Matilda weaves her story, she and Phelps are transported into the world of the circus, where lots of acts are performing under the big top. These imaginative scenes feature actual circus performers who did their own tricks.

Tim Minchin wrote a new ending song for the Matilda film.

The stage show ends with bows and a medley of "When I Grow Up" and "Naughty," but the movie needed something fresh. When tasked with writing the ending scene, Kelly joked, "I just said no and gave it to Tim."

So Minchin came up with a finale number titled "Still Holding My Hand," which instantly charmed the rest of the creative team. "I got a video of my wife and, at the time, 8-month-old daughter dancing around the room to that song," Kelly recalled. "She doesn't dance normally."

"Still Holding My Hand" was the first new song Minchin wrote for Matilda since its London premiere and the only fully new song to make it in the film. He also rearranged a few existing ones for the screen and cut others entirely.

The entire movie was filmed in Ireland during the pandemic.

Filming during Covid-19 came with unique challenges, as everyone had to wear masks when not on camera. "When I was in editing... there were some shots where we were like, 'This is definitely a great shot,'" Warchus recalled. "Then we'd put it on the big screen and see that somebody in the back of the shot still had their mask on!"

Close-ups, too, were tricky in an age of social distancing. For these shots, the camera was attached to a long mechanical arm, and the videographer had to operate it from afar. The extra work paid off, as these shots give the audience a closer look at the actors that they can't get at the West End show.

Matilda has a heartfelt message for all ages.

"We can all look up to Matilda as a role model for all ages," Weir said of what she hopes audiences take from the movie. "She tells a story that no matter what kind of life you're put into, you have to stand up for yourself and stand up for what's right.

"Whatever age you are, we should all take away just to be strong and have lots of courage like Matilda," she continued. That's a message to inspire everyone as they grow up.

Originally published on

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