The Doubtfire girls

 

mara-and-i

Mara and I in the school trailer while filming Mrs. Doubtfire

When I first met Mara Wilson, I was 14 and she was 5 and I decided she was mine.

We met at the screen test for Mrs. Doubtfire and for some reason, she, Matt Lawrence and I bonded instantly. Even though there were other kids auditioning, we felt like we were the pre-pubescent trio that were going to be Robin and Sally’s kids. We were right.

Mara was tiny and spunky and had impossibly small fingernails. I was very shy, introverted and a little lonely. I lived a pretty transient life as a young actor. I was an only child and worked more often than I went to school. Most of my time was spent with adults and I was much more comfortable with them than I was with other kids.  But somehow, soon after we met, I decided Mara was mine.

It’s the most maternal I’ve ever been to anyone who is not a dog.

After the film wrapped, we stayed close. There were five kids in her family and her house was this constantly churning, fun, adventurous mess. I became an honorary member of the household. When I was 15, her older brother and I held hands at the Travel Town theme park. It was the most action I’d ever gotten, aside from an on-screen kiss in Matinee a couple of years earlier, so I decided that it would be a good idea to marry Mara’s brother. He was a nice guy and I could keep my pseudo-siblings forever.

Then stuff happened. Life happened. Work happened. Mara and I both traveled a lot for shoots and we lost touch.

When I went to New York recently, I contacted her. We hadn’t seen each other in 15 years. Mara met me in the lobby of my hotel, we leapt into each others arms and didn’t let go. The doorman stared at us. We didn’t care.

I still think she’s mine and I have to take care of her – even though she is a completely grown up, lovely woman. Even though she wears stylish shoes with heels and makes me feel like a teenage boy because all I ever wear are Chuck Taylor’s. Even though she was the one who protected us from the crazy guy who approached us in the park, because I’ve never figured out the difference between being assertive and rude. Even though she is a phenomenal storyteller who she gets up on stage and owns it in a way that make me break into a flop sweat just thinking about.

You don’t always stay in touch with the people you work with, even though you create these intense relationships with them. I adored Matt Lawrence, who played my brother in Doubtfire. During filming, he and I had a ridiculously good time playing fetch with his Golden Retriever in the ballroom of the fancy hotel where we lived. We just didn’t manage to stay in touch.

And that’s how it usually goes. The end of the movie is often the end of that momentary connection. Everyone moves on to the next show, the next location, the next hotel room.

But there are these rare times on film shoots when you think you are there to do a job and really you are there to meet your family. And with family, you can lose track of them for a while, but they are never really gone.

Mara will always be my little sister.

Even if I didn’t marry Danny.

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