Mara Elizabeth Wilson was born on July 24, 1987, in Burbank, California. Her father, Mike Wilson, was a television broadcast engineer, and her mother, Suzie Wilson (née Shapiro; deceased), was a homemaker. Wilson's mother was Jewish, and her father is of part Irish descent. She was raised Jewish, and became an atheist when she was 15. She has three older brothers—Danny, Jon, and Joel—and a younger sister, Anna. Political commentator Ben Shapiro is her maternal cousin. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 10, 1995, and died on April 26, 1996, after production on Matilda had wrapped. Accordingly, the film was dedicated to Suzie's memory. After her mother died, Wilson lost some of her passion for acting.