The Princess Diaries may just be the ultimate makeover movie. In the beloved 2001 flick, shy, geeky teenager Mia Thermopolis, who’s played by Anne Hathaway, finds out that she’s the heir to an entire European kingdom. And naturally, she needs a glamorous, royally approved refashioning – both inside and out – before she can take the throne.
Of course, any about-to-be-princess needs a loyal best friend by their side. In Mia’s case, said pal is Lilly Moscovitz, who has no qualms with being herself in a school that’s full of popularity-seeking teens. And when actress Heather Matarazzo stepped into Lilly’s socially conscious – and eccentric – shoes, she was just 19 years old herself.
But a lot has happened since The Princess Diaries hit theaters nearly two decades ago. And Matarazzo has certainly come a long way since playing a dorky teenager. The 36-year-old actress is all grown up now, and she’s switched up her look – and career – so much that you may not even recognize her. Here’s what’s changed since Matarazzo’s lovable portrayal of Lilly and what she’s up to now.
For starters, let’s go back to where it all began. In 2000 author Meg Cabot’s agent was convinced that her latest novel would be perfect for the big screen. Disney agreed and bought the rights to the movie that would come to be known and loved as The Princess Diaries. At this point, though, the film project was titled The Princess of Tribeca, since the script originally had the plot taking place in New York City.
But once the production team moved the filming location from the Big Apple to San Francisco, the title switched back to Cabot’s original. And with Garry Marshall on board to direct, so was born The Princess Diaries. Just like the book, the movie centers on high-schooler Mia, whose life is flipped upside down when she learns that her grandmother – played by Julie Andrews – is royalty in a faraway land.
And stepping into Mia’s shoes was then-newcomer Anne Hathaway, who, interestingly, landed the part of the awkward teen after just one audition with Marshall. The actress once explained, according to Vogue, “At some point during the audition, I got really nervous and fell out of my chair. And I think that’s what [Marshall] was most impressed with.”
Indeed, this clumsiness came in handy for Hathaway when getting into character as Mia, who too has her own less-than-graceful moments. And this seems to be why the teen only has one real friend in the movie: Lilly. But as Mia starts to get into her life as a princess, her relationship with her best pal becomes strained.
So, how id Matarazzo nab the role of Lilly? Well, apparently The Princess Diaries’ casting director, Marcia Ross, put in a good word for her with Marshall. Matarazzo told Cosmopolitan, “[Ross] had brought me in and had told Garry Marshall about me and had said, ‘You really need to meet this girl. She’s different than you think.’”
After meeting with Marshall, then, Matarazzo read lines with Hathaway to see if she and the on-screen princess had the right chemistry to play best chums. And according to Matarazzo, the pair really hit it off. “You can see that; I think that’s what makes the film work so well,” she told Cosmopolitan in 2016. “We got on famously.”
It turned out in fact that Hathaway and Matarazzo had crossed paths years prior to their Princess Diaries casting. But while Hathaway remembered said encounters, Matarazzo had little recollection of the pair ever having met before. “I was such a sarcastic, little, punk-ass kid that couldn’t be bothered by cheerfulness,” Matarazzo told Cosmopolitan.
Yes, Matarazzo and Hathaway apparently first met when they were both kids trying to make it in showbiz. Matarazzo had started acting at the age of six, in fact. After boldly taking over the microphone at a charity event, the girl had received a business card from a talent agent. And they had gone on to represent her for the next decade.
Then, it was around seven years before Matarazzo landed her big break. In the 1995 movie Welcome to the Dollhouse, the actress – who was then 15 years old – portrays Dawn, a middle-schooler who desperately seeks positive attention from her peers and family. The role kickstarted Matarazzo’s career, and she earned an Independent Spirit Award in the process, too.
After this, Matarazzo’s career began taking off. She told Cosmopolitan, “Welcome to the Dollhouse propelled me into being known and being thought of as a talented actor, which I was really grateful for. But I was like an indie darling.” Alongside Matarazzo’s thriving independent film career, though, she did work on some high-profile movies. These include The Devil’s Advocate, starring Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino.
Meanwhile, Matarazzo’s pre-Princess Diaries career also saw her appear in the movie 54, which is about the famous New York City club, Studio 54. In the 1998 drama she plays Ryan Phillippe’s younger sister, Grace, who dreams of joining her brother on the club scene.
Two years later came Matarazzo’s part in the third installment of the Scream movie franchise. The series’ first two flicks had garnered major critical acclaim for reviving the horror genre and had proved to be huge commercial successes, too. And while Scream 3 received lukewarm reviews, it did top the box office in its opening weekend.
But it was the following year that Matarazzo finally landed the kind of role that she’d been waiting for: Lilly in The Princess Diaries. “I became a lot more mainstream,” she told Cosmopolitan. “It gave me a lot more opportunity,” she added. At the time, though, Matarazzo had no idea just how big the movie would become – nor that it would spawn a sequel a few years down the line.
“I am always surprised when a movie does well. That’s something that I’ve never taken for granted: how a movie does. I’ve never been like, ‘This is gonna be a huge hit,’ because you don’t know,” Matarazzo explained while discussing The Princess Diaries. But that said, the actress believed in the picture’s potential. “It’s a testament to [Marshall’s] talent. It’s a testament to [Hathaway’s] talent and Julie [Andrews’] and mine,” she added.
Given Matarazzo’s fondness for the movie, then, we imagine that she was more than happy to reprise her role of Lilly in the 2004 sequel: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Plus, in the years that followed, Matarazzo featured in a number of movies and TV shows, including The L Word. But after a turn in the 2007 horror film Hostel: Part II, the actress’s work in Hollywood suddenly began to dry up.
Matarazzo recalled to The Guardian in 2017, “I don’t know if I took a step back from Hollywood or [if] Hollywood took a step back from me.” That said, the actress suspected that her previous roles had started to pigeonhole her: in many movies, she had played dorky, social outcast characters, after all.
“I had difficulties dealing with my own insecurities and identity when I was in my late teens,” Matarazzo went on. “It was strange, because I never thought about the characters that I played when I was younger. But it wasn’t until I became an adolescent that I started hearing words such as ‘ugly’ or ‘plain.’ I started to get a firm grasp on how other people saw me.”
In fact, things became so difficult for Matarazzo in 2009 that after a string of failed auditions, she even contemplated taking her own life. “I was like, ‘What kind of sick and twisted universe is this?’” she recalled. And although Matarazzo said that her suicidal thoughts weren’t “dramatic,” her therapist nevertheless recommended treatment.
Even after working through her own dark thoughts, though, Matarazzo continued to struggle – financially speaking at least. “Most people think that I probably get paid a lot of money. But I really don’t, and most working actors don’t. I drive a beat-up Prius, and I just bought my first pair of new shoes in over two years,” she admitted.
During this time, Matarazzo was still finding acting gigs – just not starring mainstream roles like The Princess Diaries. She had minor parts on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order, for instance. And just as Matarazzo had started out in her career, she found work in independent films, such as Girl Flu and Stuck, which came out in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Mind you, indie film roles don’t pay nearly as much as big-screen blockbusters. Matarazzo explained to The Guardian, “An independent project runs for two to three weeks at most, and we get paid $125 for the day. That’s after working for 16 to 18 hours.”
Ultimately, though, Matarazzo didn’t see herself doing anything else. “All I want to be able to do is pay rent, create and bring about stories to the world that need to be told. It’s not about the awards for me,” she said. “It’s about a single tweet or an email or a letter that says, ‘That movie changed my life.’”
Since then, Matarazzo has dedicated much of her time working towards this dream of telling important stories – and not just when it comes to her craft. Case in point: the actress candidly came out as a lesbian in 2004. At a promotional event for The Princess Diaries 2, reporters apparently kept asking the then-21-year old if she had a Prince Charming of her own. And Matarazzo had the perfect response.
“No, but I have a Princess Charming!” Matarazzo responded candidly. And since coming out, the actress has been a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community. She also vehemently supports women’s rights, having experienced damaging treatment herself in the midst of her blossoming career.
In a 2015 blog post for the website After Ellen, Matarazzo described a particularly heartbreaking incident. Apparently, producers had dropped her from a movie because she wasn’t conventionally attractive. She shared her heartache surrounding the experience but later described to MTV how it had also shaped her outlook as she’d progressed through her career.
“The bigger point that I was making in that blog was the perception that I have about myself and how easy it is to advocate one’s own power based off what other people say,” Matarazzo explained. “Getting to the other side of that and saying, ‘Oh, that’s a lie; that’s actually not true.’ That’s when my perception changed about myself.”
“It doesn’t negate the fact that, of course, there are people that are sexist, that are shallow [and] that are only looking at the outside in terms of what women can bring to a screen,” Matarazzo continued. “But that’s always been the case. For me, [it’s about] personally not believing the hype and the lie, and then getting to see actual change in the opportunities that I’ve been given once I stopped believing that lie.”
With such confidence in herself and in her beliefs, then, it makes sense that Matarazzo has become such a loud voice in the ongoing fight for women’s equality in Hollywood. She has also been open about her relationships, too, including the one that she plans to keep forever: she and her girlfriend, Heather Turman, got engaged in early 2018.
Matarazzo and Turman met on the set of Stuck. The former acted in the indie film, while the latter wrote and produced it. And according to Turman, they worked perfectly together professionally, and the relationship blossomed into something more. She wrote on Instagram in August 2017, “It was an insane amount of work, yet working with her couldn’t be easier.”
“We share the exact same vision and have such a mutual respect for [each other]. I trust her eye and ear completely, and I know she trusts mine, too. I love watching what she brings to the table creatively. [Heather Matarazzo,] you are my soulmate,” Turman wrote, concluding her sweet post.
About five months after Turman’s post, it was Matarazzo’s turn to laud her love. But this time, they were no longer just dating: they were fiancées. “I’m engaged to the absolute, unequivocal love of my life. I never knew I could find someone that matches me the way she does – in all ways… always,” Matarazzo gushed.
Matarazzo and Turman tied the knot in November of 2018, and so things seem to be falling into place. Meanwhile, The Princess Diaries fans will be glad to know that the beloved movie continues to shape Matarazzo’s life – despite the fact that she’s nearing 40 now, and the flick came out when she was just 19.
For one thing, Matarazzo wants to start a podcast that pays homage to her Princess Diaries character. In the film, Lilly has a cable TV show called Shut Up and Listen, on which she shares her opinions and asks her viewers tough questions. And the same will go for Matarazzo’s podcast, which will use the same name as her movie character’s TV show.
Plus, the Shut Up and Listen podcast will actually be part of a production business that Matarazzo intends to establish. The actress explained on Patreon, “My company will be one that raises the voices of those who have felt like they haven’t been seen or heard.”
Meanwhile, perhaps Matarazzo will have the chance to reprise her role as Lilly one day, too. In January of 2019 her Princess Diaries co-star Hathaway appeared on an episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. And on the show, she revealed that a third Princess Diaries script exists – and that much of the original cast want to take part.
That said, nothing official has happened as of yet in relation to the rumored third Princess Diaries installment. But the franchise nevertheless seems to hold a special place in Matarazzo’s heart. The actress told MTV in 2015, “It was made in love. I’m so happy that people are tweeting me with the potential for a third one. It’s so great that people would love to see more.”
Matarazzo has certainly grown up and changed since her time on The Princess Diaries, then. That said, her bright blue eyes and plump pout remain her signatures at 36 years of age. But one thing about her old look that she’ll never revisit? “I learned that I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever cut my hair that short again, ever,” she told Cosmopolitan.