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Why Agatha Trunchbull From Matilda Looks So Familiar

Millennials will never forget the '90s Danny DeVito classic "Matilda," especially the literally massive villain, the black-clad Principal Agatha Trunchbull.

A sadistic woman whose hatred of children and skills as an Olympic athlete make her especially intimidating, the Trunchbull makes for a formidable opponent to gifted child Matilda. Several of the movie's best scenes involve her bizarre punishments of Matilda and her schoolmates, including the dreaded "Chokey" and the glorious moment when Bruce Bogtrotter turns being forced to eat an entire cake into a personal triumph. She's such a menacing character, that Matilda's telekinetic powers plus an army of children armed with food are ultimately what it takes to drive Trunchbull out of the school by the film's end.

While Principal Trunchbull is likely actress Pam Ferris' most iconic role, the British thespian has worked for more than four decades in theater, television, and film. These are some of the roles you may have seen her in before.

She positively blew up in Harry Potter

While Ferris had performed for years on stage and in British television, "Matilda" was only her second film credit after a nearly two-decade-long hiatus from the movie business. The film became a cult success, but Ferris focused on her television career in England for another six years afterward (per IMDb).

After working with DeVito again in 2002's maligned black comedy "Death to Smoochy," the actress found another role as an iconic villain from children's literature: Aunt Marge in "Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban." 

The 2004 Alfonso Cuarón film features Ferris as the bloviating Margaret Thatcher satire, the awful sister of Uncle Vernon who ends up playing with fire when she insults Harry's parents. Harry, a young wizard with limited control, loses his temper and quite literally "blows her up," sending her inflated body off into the stratosphere over Little Whinging.

For a performance with such little screen time, Ferris is not only vicious but hilarious, especially considering how much she had to convey while wearing tons of prosthetics and inflatable suits (via Screen Rant).

Ferris joined a more adult, and apocalyptic, Cuaron film

Ferris' next film role would be as part of another Cuarón project, one sometimes cited as one of the best films of the century: "Children of Men." Cuarón's more adult follow-up to "Prisoner of Azkaban" is set in a world of inexplicable infertility — no children have been born for nearly two decades, and as a result everything is on the brink of collapse. But when former activist Theo (Clive Owen) is asked to help a refugee, Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), who is miraculously pregnant, he goes on the run with her and former midwife, Miriam (Ferris), in order to save the baby and maybe the world.

One scene where Miriam muses about how it felt when children stopped being born is a serious highlight of "Children of Men," and showcases Ferris' considerable talent. Miriam ultimately exits the film when she sacrifices herself for Kee, but her final scene in which she's hooded, likely awaiting a grim death at the hands of British soldiers, lingers as much as any single image from Cuarón's film.

She played Sister Evangelina on Call The Midwife

Pam Ferris mostly works in British television and stage, recently notching appearances on shows such as "Luther" and "Gavin & Stacey."

While many of Ferris' guest roles are on shows that aren't huge in the U.S., American fans of the PBS series "Call The Midwife" will certainly recognize her. The actress appeared in a total of 36 episodes and five series as the blunt-but-fair Sister Evangelina. Much like Trunchbull, Sister Evangelina is physically and mentally vigorous, but very unlike her previous character, the nun applies her prowess to helping others in the community of Poplar.

Ferris left the show in 2016, as a difficult shooting schedule proved too stressful for the actress and her home life (per Vision TV). The show chose then to depict the nun dying from a stroke in the fifth series finale. Ferris remains very much active in film and television, however.