In 1996, we all wanted to be Matilda.
We loved Mara Wilson as the psychic child who used her wit to escape a family that just doesn’t get it. There was a lot to relate to there.
At the same time, we loved to hate the villain of the 1996 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel. Miss Trunchbull was strong and mean and sort of tragic. The performer who brought her to life, however, is none of those things.
That performer, Pam Ferris, has a soft spot for Miss Trunchbull.
In a 2012 interview, she told the Guardian that Miss Trunchbull was one of her top roles:
“Miss Trunchbull was one of my favorite characters,” she said. “The bully who had fear, who wasn’t as strong as you’d think. I think everyone can relate to that, and there were definitely similarities between her and me.”
Since her classic role in “Matilda,” Ferris has scored roles in the major films of every era.
Sometimes she channels her inner Trunchbull, as in her performance as Aunt Marge in 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Other times she returns to her roots as a character actor, like when she played the lovable New-Age survivor Miriam in 2006’s Children of Men.
In 2018, Ferris will take a royal turn as Queen Victoria in the upcoming Holmes and Watson, starring Ralph Fiennes and Will Ferrell.
Between roles, the 69-year-old actor fills her time with reading books by the millions and hanging out with her husband, the actor Roger Frost. She and Frost married late and never had kids, but Ferris doesn’t have any regrets.
“I was obsessed with work in my youth,” she said. “It’s why I didn’t get married until I was 38 and the reason I didn’t have kids. Not having children isn’t a sadness in my life, though. I know I wouldn’t have been a half-bad mother, but that’s what happened. There’s no regretting it.”
As this comment demonstrates, Ferris has picked up quite a lot of wisdom through the years.
As she rounds the corner of 70, she has learned to embrace the mysteries of life.
“The older I get, the less I know,” she said. “By that I mean the less I am sure of. I view people with strong opinions on the big stuff with distrust.”
When we look at contemporary pictures of Ferris, it’s hard to believe she was that grimacing weightlifter, Miss Trunchbull. In a sense, she’ll always be Trunchbull to a generation of 90s kids.
But while we’ll always enjoy Ferris’ role as the kid-hating headmistress, we appreciate this actor for her intelligent reflections on getting by in the world for nearly seven decades.
“I don’t think we should have certain certainties on faith and politics,” she said. “I think we should be open-minded.”
Too bad no one could get that through to Miss Trunchbull.