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Danny DeVito jokes he couldn't make 'Matilda' today — but rest assured, 'no children were harmed' during filming

danny devito at a red carpet event, wearing a black shirt, black jacket, and black frame glasses. he's smiling slightly and has his eyebrows raised
Danny DeVito.Rich Fury/Invision/AP
  • Danny DeVito directed the 1996 film "Matilda," based on Roald Dahl's book of the same name.

  • DeVito is screening the film with composer David Newman and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

  • He spoke with BI about how he made the film terrifying for kids — but let audiences down gently.

Danny DeVito has said that he wouldn't be able to make his 1996 classic film "Matilda," which features outright nasty parents and kids getting swung around by their pigtails, in the modern day. But according to the actor and director, he's mostly joking.

"You probably could make the movie today," he told Business Insider in a recent interview. "I was just being flippant."

DeVito jokes in his director's commentary for the film, which is available on its 4K Blu-Ray edition, that it'd be difficult for him to make the same film now. "Matilda," adapted from Roald Dahl's novel of the same name, stars Mara Wilson as precocious six-year-old Matilda Wormwood, who discovers after a lifetime of being berated by her literature-shunning parents that she's not only smart but supernaturally gifted. She uses her newfound powers to take revenge on the adults who wronged her — including her bully of a school principal, the Trunchbull.

DeVito and composer David Newman are screening the film as a live concert on March 22 in New Jersey, with DeVito narrating and Newman conducting the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in a performance of his score. It's also a bit of a cast reunion: DeVito told BI that Wilson and DeVito's wife Rhea Perlman, whom he separated from in 2012, will be in attendance.

And yes, DeVito will be channeling his character, Harry Wormwood (Matilda's slimy father), complete with his jacket from the film, a hat, and a mustache he's been growing just for the occasion.

danny devito as harry wormwood in matilda. he's a greasy car salesman in a loudly pattnered jacket, red shirt, and red pocket square, wearing a grey hat. he's rubbing his hands together like he's about to con you
Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood in "Matilda."Columbia/Tristar Pict./Supplied by Online USA, Inc. via Getty Images

What makes "Matilda" still feel remarkable is how DeVito balances the wonder of a children's power fantasy with genuine fear. Much of that is due to the film's cinematography: shot by Stefan Czapsky, whom DeVito first worked with on "Batman Returns," the film frames its most menacing adults as giants. Some shots, DeVito told BI, follow the Trunchbull (played by Pam Ferris) from feet to face, constantly warping perspective. DeVito and Czapsky also used a 21-millimeter lens to get up close and personal for some of the film's grotesque, frequent mouth shots — frequently of Ferris and DeVito himself.

Matilda
Pam Ferris in "Matilda."TriStar Pictures

The director joked to BI that "no children were harmed in this film," despite sequences like Bruce Bogtrotter (Jimmy Karz) being forced to eat a whole chocolate cake in front of his classmates. And despite the moments of abject peril, DeVito always made sure to bring things down to scale.

"The old timers would say, you chase 'em up a tree, you shake a stick at 'em, and then you let 'em down again, the audience," DeVito told BI. "So with 'Matilda,' what I did was, I chased 'em up a tree, I keep 'em there, shake the stick at 'em, and then I put a stepladder so they could come down. So it's an easy down."

"Matilda in Concert" takes place at the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick on March 22.

Read the original article on Business Insider