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Listen, you little wiseacre. I'm smart, you're dumb, I'm big, you're little, I'm right, you're wrong. And there's nothin' you can do about it.
~ Harry insulting his daughter, Matilda.
Mr. Harold "Harry" Wormwood, also known as Mr. Wormwood, is the secondary antagonist in Roald Dahl's book Matilda and its popular 1996 film adaptation.
He is the owner of Wormwood Motors, the husband of Zinnia Wormwood, the ex-father of Matilda and the father of Michael Wormwood. Despite posing as an honest businessman, Harry is actually a crook and a con-artist who sells defective cars to people at unreasonable prices, as he believes that no one makes money being honest and is also unaware that the FBI are spying on him as he believes that the FBI are speedboat salesmen.
Although like Zinniah and Miss Trunchbull, his past is mostly unknown and unexplained but we do know that he did not go to college because he believed that they were filled with “hippies and cesspool salesmen”. And at some point in his life, he became corrupt and created his own business, Wormwood Moters.
Harry Wormwood is a rich man and a crook who makes dirty dealings like buying stolen car parts. He is the owner of Wormwood Motors. Harry doesn't care for Matilda and dislikes her a lot. He gets ticked off when he realize she is smarter than him, and he often abuses Matilda by sending her to her room as a cruel punishment for being a “smart aleck”. In revenge, Matilda sneaks into her parents bedroom and sabotages Harry’s hair stuff with chloroxine. In the morning, when Harry appears in the Kitchen, a shocked Michael and Zinniah discovered that Harry’s hair was bleached, and Harry screams in horror when he looks in the mirror at himself, much to Matilda’s amusement.
The next day, Harry takes his son, Michael, and Matilda to his business, Wormwood Motors, while two FBI agents were spying on Harry with his stolen car parts. At Wormwood Motors, as Harry talks to his son about becoming the next owner of Wormwood Motors, Matilda calls him a crook. Offended, Harry tells her off, calling her dumb and little. Matilda then glues Harry’s hat with Super Super Glue. While Zinnah picks them up to take them to Cafe Le Ritz (when she won a new car from bingo), Harry unknowingly puts his hat on with glue. While attempting to take his hat off at the restaurant, Zinnah tries to pull Harry’s hat off, but with no avail, causing Harry to crash into a table of desserts, sending them flying.
Back at home, Harry rants about not being the figure if ridicule while Zinnah cuts some hair off of Harry to pull his hat off. Later at dinnertime, while he and his family were watching their favorite TV show, The Million Dollar Sticky, Harry asks Matilda if she was in this family, but ignores him. Fumed, Harry berates to her that dinnertime is family time and asks about the book she was reading. Matilda states that it’s Moby Dick, which Harry thinks it’s offensive and tears the book to pieces, and states that he’s fed up with her reading. Harry then forces Matilda to watch the TV show he and his family were watching. Suddenly, Matilda developed a magic mind power which destroyed the TV.
The next day, at his business, Harry makes a car deal with Agatha Trunchbull, and scams her into buying a bad car. While Trunchbull was driving to the Olympics, her car broke down, much to her fury. She calls Harry and threatens to sue him.
Later on, at the end of the film, due to his illegal dealings which attracted the attention of the FBI, Harry and his wife, Mrs. Zinnia Wormwood, and his son, Michael, are forced to go on a permanent vacation to Guam. After they agree to let Matilda be adopted by Miss Honey, the three drive away, never to be seen again.
In the stage musical, he is shown to ultimately care about Matilda a bit in that he acknowledges her as his daughter and wants her to come away with the family; this does not occur in the film.
Harry Wormwood's first appearance as he's not impressed with his newborn daughter.
Harry with his wife, Zinnia.
After putting his daughter in the back of the car, Harry starts driving.
Harry when Ms. Honey reveals she cares about Matilda.
Harry's evil stare when Matilda won't acknowledge him.
A popular theory in recent years is that Harry Wormwood and the narrator of the film are actually one and the same (given the fact that they were both played by Danny DeVito, who also directed the film), implying that Harry eventually pulled a Heel-Face Turn and became a better person, which leads him to narrate Matilda's story in a way to atone the fact that he was not the decent father he should have been.
It's possible that in the film canon, Mr. Wormwood got his comeuppance offscreen in the end. Basically, while he and his family go to Guam so the FBI would not capture him, Guam is a U.S. territory and the FBI still has jurisdiction there, so he and his family wouldn't actually be escaping anything. In the book, the Wormwoods went to Spain, which is in Europe, and therefore the FBI has no jurisdiction there.
Given this, it is unknown why Spain was changed to Guam in the film adaptation as it does not affect the story in any way. However, it is possible that it was changed to reflect Harry's lack of knowledge and intelligence in contrast to that of his daughter (if anyone believes that Harry was arrested in the end).
Also, if he and his family had been captured, he would have been deported back to the U.S., and forced to refund every last cent he conned his customers out of.
Rhea Perlman, the actress who played Harry's wife Zinnia Wormwood in the film, was Danny DeVito's wife in real life by the time the film was made.
In the original book, Mr. Wormwood is taller and thinner, but in the film adaptation, Mr. Wormwood is short and overweight. In contrast, Mrs. Wormwood was overweight in the original book but thinner in the film adaptation.
The late Bob Hoskins, Tim Allen, Joe Pesci, John Goodman, Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Martin, George Wendt, Alec Baldwin, the late Phil Hartman, the late Robin Williams and the late Tony Haygarth were all considered for the role of Harry Wormwood before Danny DeVito was cast.
Harry Wormwood's character was, to some extent, the inspiration for Vernon Dursley, the uncle of Harry Potter from the Harry Potter franchise. However, in comparison, Harry is less harsh with his daughter than Vernon with his nephew.