Where's 'A Little Princess' Star Liesel Pritzker Simmons, 20 Years Later?

The onetime star has led a very interesting life since the film came out in 1995

Photo: Everett

On May 10, 1995, the film A Little Princess opened in theaters. An adaptation of a novel by The Secret Garden author Frances Hodgson Burnett, the film starred 11-year-old Liesel Matthews as Sara, an indomitable little girl who uses kindness, courage and imagination to overcome the cruel caretaker watching her while her father is away at war.

The Alfonso Cuarén-directed film was nominated for two Academy Awards, and went on to be a favorite among those who love a good fairytale about a strong, young heroine.

Twenty years later, Liesel Matthews, 31, now known as Liesel Pritzker Simmons, has led as interesting a life as young Sara did. Here are 10 things you might have forgotten about her since A Little Princess:

She also played Harrison Ford’s daughter in Air Force One

At 13, Pritzker played Alice Marshall, the president’s daughter, in the 1997 thriller about terrorists hijacking the White House jet. In an interview, Ford praised her performance, saying, “Liesel is just so real, it’s like a breath of fresh air.”

But her acting career is not the most notable thing about her, by far

Beyond Air Force One and A Little Princess, her filmography features only one other entry: Blast in 2000. That’s it. It’s perhaps telling that in a 1995 PEOPLE interview, Cuarén noted that he cast the young actress because she “was more interested in having fun than establishing a career.”

Her family is one of the wealthiest in the nation
Forbes ranks the Pritzkers as No. 8 on its list of the nation’s richest families, with an estimated wealth of $29 billion. The descendants of businessman A.N. Pritzker, they own the Hyatt hotel chain, among many other enterprises.

She sued her family for her inheritance – and won big time
In 2005, a years-long Pritzker family legal battle ended with Liesel and her brother, Matthew, winning $900 million after they claimed that their father and cousins had denied them their proper inheritance. Then only 20, she was still a college student when the lawsuit concluded.

She took a note from A Little Princess when she left to find herself
In A Little Princess, her character longs to return to India, where she lived an idyllic life with her father prior to the onset of World War I. Following the conclusion of the lawsuit, Pritzker Simmons herself went to India. According to this Forbes profile, she first volunteered at a nursery school before teaching yoga to heroin addicts going through rehab.

But before you make a "little princess" joke

Unlike certain other heirs you’ve heard of, she has committed to use her wealth to better the world. Starting in 2008, Pritzker Simmons focused her energies on philanthropy, setting aside $100 million of her fortune to put toward charitable purposes.

She made her mother her boss.

In 2008, Pritzker founded the IDP Foundation Inc., a nonprofit focusing on education. She named her mother, Irene Dryburgh Pritzker, the president. (In fact, her mother and the foundation have the same initials.) IDP’s Rising Schools Program aims to offer financial support to low-cost private schools in Ghana and make them more accessible to the poorest of residents.

She’s married now – and yes, her husband is also exceptionally wealthy
Forbes estimates Ian Simmons’ worth at around $100 million, and describes him as follows: “a blue-blooded heir to the family that built locks on the Erie Canal, cofounded department-store chain Montgomery Ward and helped take insurance broker Marsh & McLennan public.”

She believes it’s her moral obligation to give back

In a 2012 talk organized by Yale University, Pritzker Simmons called her charity efforts “a moral imperative,” not a choice. “I feel that I was so lucky to born in this position where I have food to eat, I have clean water to drink, I have a community of people that support me,” she said. “Why not use that amazing base to make more people in that position?”

She was named after the Sound of Music character

Von Trapps for the win! Her stage surname, Matthews, was a nod to her brother Matthew, according to this profile of her.

Drew Barrymore Shares Her Favorite Childhood Memories

Related Articles