Who is Liesel Matthews?
Liesel Matthews is an American former child actor. She inherited a part of the 'Hyatt' fortune. She has starred in films such as ‘A Little Princess’ and ‘Air Force One.’ She was born in Chicago, Illinois, into the Pritzker family, one of the wealthiest families in the US. Liesel attended the ‘New Trier High School.’ As a child, she was always interested in acting. While in school, she participated in plays frequently. She played the role of a girl scout in a stage production of the popular play ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Soon, she was discovered by a Hollywood agent. She made her screen debut with the role of ‘Sara Crewe’ in the 1995 film ‘A Little Princess.’ The film received universal critical acclaim, and Liesel won a ‘Young Artist Award’ nomination for her performance. She continued to star in films such as ‘Air Force One’ and ‘Blast.’ The glamorous life of Hollywood did not resonate with her, and she moved to India to “find herself” in her 20s. Soon, she started her journey as a philanthropist. She sued her family and won about $500 million from them as a lawsuit settlement.
Childhood & Early Life
Liesel Matthews was born Liesel Anne Pritzker, on March 14, 1984, in Chicago, Illinois, to Irene and Robert Pritzker. Her family is known as one of the richest families in the US. She is the granddaughter of Abram Nicholas Pritzker. Her father co-founded ‘The Marmon Group,’ and her uncle co-founded the ‘Hyatt Hotels’ chain, a world-renowned chain of luxury hotels.
Liesel grew up with her younger brother, Matthew. Liesel has three half-siblings from her father’s first marriage, to Audrey Gilbert.
Growing up in a highly privileged household ensured a comfortable life for Liesel. Over time, she became attracted to the idea of becoming an actor and thus participated in stage plays during her school years. In the mid-1990s, she appeared on stage for her school’s production of the classic play ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ a play with the underlying theme of racism.
She played a girl scout, which was a small role in the play, but her performance was noticed. She ended up bagging a role in the 1995 film ‘A Little Princess.’
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Before making her on-screen debut, Liesel changed her stage name from “Liesel Pritzker” to “Liesel Matthews.” The reason for this was to honor her brother, Matthew. This was also done to avoid a dispute regarding whether she should adopt her stepfather’s name or her biological father’s name. Her father once threatened her that he would not let her star in films if she did not use the last name “Pritzker.”
In the Alfonso Cuaron-directed 1995 film ‘A Little Princess,’ Liesel played the role of ‘Sara Crewe.’ It was one of the central characters in the family drama. The film was based on a 1939 film of the same name, which in turn was based on an acclaimed novel of the same name.
The film tells the story of ‘Sara Crew’ during World War I and how her life turns around after her father dies in combat. Although the film was a slow commercial success due to lack to promotion, it received thunderous critical acclaim. Nominated for two ‘Academy Awards,’ the film turned out to be the perfect debut vehicle for Liesel. She was nominated for a ‘Young Artist Award’ for her performance in the film.
Following the critical success of ‘A Little Princess,’ Liesel appeared in the 1997 film ‘Air Force One.’ It was an action thriller that revolved around a terrorist plot and starred Harrison Ford in the lead role. The film featured Liesel in the role of ‘Alice Marshall,’ the daughter of the US president.
Liesel won critical acclaim for her role in the film. The film was a huge critical and commercial success. Over time, the film earned the status of a cult action film.
However, after the success of ‘Air Force One,’ Liesel lost interest in being an actor and appeared only in one film, titled ‘Blast,’ where she played the role of ‘Jessie.’ However, she remained active in the theater world and appeared in a few critically acclaimed plays.
In 2002, she appeared in the play ‘The Distance from Here,’ which was staged at the ‘Almeida Theatre’ at King’s Cross in London.
In 2003, she was seen in the play ‘Vincent in Brixton,’ which was based on a chapter in the life of the legendary painter Vincent van Gogh. Her role in the play won Liesel a ‘Theatre World Award.’
She retired from the screen permanently and rejected many film offers that came her way. In 2008, she was offered a key role in the film ‘Hamlet 2.’ However, she rejected the offer. She also rejected an offer to present an award at the ‘MTV Movie Awards.’
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In 2010, she appeared in a theatrical show titled ‘Where’s Linda Margret,’ which was played in London, England.
Liesel was a self-confessed “lost soul.” She won critical acclaim for her films, but she did not intend to continue being an actor. When her family started to become notorious, following a lawsuit filed by her and her brother, she thought it was best to move out of the country for a while.
Drawing inspiration from her character in the film ‘A Little Princess,’ she set out on a journey to discover herself in India. She started devoting herself to charitable work there and taught at a nursery school. She also dived into spirituality and taught yoga to heroin addicts in order to rehabilitate them. She eventually came back to the US and continued to devote time to charity.
Liesel Matthews is a wealthy, young woman, who has inherited about $500 million after filing a lawsuit. She saved a large chunk of the money she received from the lawsuit and asked her mother to start a charitable organization. The charity, known as ‘IDP Foundation Inc.,’ focuses on educating underprivileged children in the US.
She currently runs the ‘Blue Haven Initiative’ with her husband, Ian. She also manages ‘The ImPact.’ Both are non-profit organizations.
Family & Personal Life
Liesel Matthews married business tycoon Ian Simmons in 2011. Ian belongs to the family that founded the popular departmental store chain ‘Montgomery Ward.’ The couple had first met at a global philanthropist meet.
In 2002, Liesel Matthews filed a lawsuit against her father and her family, stating that they had denied her and her brother share in the family property, which was their birthright. Her brother, Matthew, also joined her in the legal fight, and the family had to give them $280 million each in cash and $170 million each in trust funds. Thus, they became two of the richest young adults in the country.
After she returned to the US from India, she lost all interest in acting and enrolled into cooking classes in Columbia instead.
She has also worked in poor conditions in Tanzania.