Actors appear to have it all-- they have the money, the fame, and the love. What could go wrong? However, many actors come from pretty tumultuous backgrounds, and even child actors have their fair share of issues growing up. Of course, child actors can have a lot problems due to their families, especially their parents, who can cause a lot of stress at home. This is the unfortunate part of being a successful working child actor.
From movies to kids' shows, child actors are always in demand. While they may able to keep it together on screen, many child actors have to face traumatic situations at home. At a young age, they’re the most successful member of their family; show business is cutthroat and they may not always get a role; whatever the reason, there are a lot of dysfunctional Hollywood families. While many are able to deal with the annoying ramifications of young childhood fame, there are a few that stand out more than the others.
Some child actors have messed up families even before they become famous, while others’ families change once they reach fame and fortune. No matter how the dice is rolled, there are many former child actors who’ve had a tough past due to their families.
Here are the 15 Child Actors Who Had Messed Up Families.
15 Leighton Meester
Unlike her Gossip Girl character Blair Waldorf, Leighton Meester didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her mother, Connie, gave birth to her while still in federal prison on charges of smuggling marijuana from Jamaica into the United States. Her father and aunt were also in prison for being involved in the same drug ring. Her aunt even managed to escape prison, and was the first woman to ever be part of the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted List.
Once Connie gave birth to Leighton, she was able to stay with Leighton in a halfway house for three months. After that, Connie had to finish her prison sentence. Once out of prison, Connie started taking care of her daughter. They moved to New York and began working toward Leighton's acting and modeling career.
Leighton only had a few small roles while she was still a child, but things started looking up once she nabbed a role in The CW's Gossip Girl. She says she had a normal childhood, regardless of the fact that her parents were reformed criminals. Unfortunately, Leighton eventually found out her mother had been stealing from her and sued her. Leighton won the case in 2012.
14 Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix would never call his family messed up. To him, they were just a little different. With that said, the Phoenix family has done some strange things. While being a peace-loving hippy is fine, inserting your own family into a cult is not.
You’d probably never be able to guess it, but, before most of the Phoenix kids became famous, they were part of Children of God. Some call Children of God a religious group, but, more often than not, it’s referred to as a cult by the public.
Known for movies such as Walk the Line, Gladiator, and Her, Joaquin Phoenix began his acting career early, at the age of eight. His brother River Phoenix was a teen heartthrob and Oscar nominated actor who passed away at the young age of twenty-three.
The two brothers also had a few sisters, who were also in the spotlight. After a small amount of time, the Phoenix family parted ways with the Children of God, before anything became too serious.
13 Drew Barrymore
The Barrymore family had already claimed their place in Hollywood long before Drew came on the scene. Drew Barrymore was expected to follow suit, and she did. After finding success as a child actor through such films as E.T. and Firestarter, Drew became a legitimate actor in her own right. However, with this success came a lot of pressure from her family.
Drew's family didn’t have a normal lifestyle-- they often partied and they neglected Drew. Drew spent her spare time at Studio 54 before she was even a teenager.
They also allowed her to smoke cigarettes before she was ten years old. By the time she was thirteen, she was regularly drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and snorting cocaine. She ended up going to rehab and emancipating herself from her parents as a teenager.
12 Emma Roberts
Before she became known for her continuous roles in American Horror Story and Scream Queens, Emma Roberts was in a Nickelodeon show called Unfabulous. Starring in the show when she was barley a teenager, Emma Roberts her foot in the door with a bit of help from her famous aunt, Julia Roberts.
What's unusual is that, while Emma had always had a close relationship with Julia, she never had a relationship with her own father Eric Roberts, who is Julia's brother.
Eric Roberts is known for his role in such movies as The Dark Knight and The Expendables. When Emma was born, Eric was dealing with some drug and alcohol issues. He left Emma and her mom, and Julia helped Emma's mom get sole custody over her.
This left a sour taste in Eric's mouth, so he and Julia struggled with their relationship for a long time and didn't speak to each other. There has been some hope, though, as the family has worked on healing their wounds. They’ve been brought together a few times and have begun working out the problems of their relationships.
11 Ariel Winter
Ariel Winter has been in the spotlight for many reasons. One particular reason was due to her mother, who lost custody of her. In 2012, Ariel’s older sister, Shanelle Workman, gained custody over Ariel.
When Shanelle was younger, the same thing had happened to her-- their mother had also lost custody of Shanelle. There had been allegations that Ariel’s mom had abused her, both physically and emotionally.
Having become part of Modern Family when she was only eleven years old, Ariel basically grew up on a television set. She is also known as the voice of the Disney Princess, Sofia, from Sofia the First.
Ariel’s family has their fair share of issues-- her mother seems to always push her children towards stardom, before treating them so badly that she loses custody over them. However, Ariel seems very happy now that she can live her own life. Her mother, on the other hand, is still bitter and continues to nag about her daughters to the press.
10 Demi Lovato
These days, Demi Lovato has become much more popular due to her music and philanthropy. However, Demi originally starred as one of the kids on the PBS Kids show, Barney & Friends. After, she continued her acting career and landed the role of Sonny on Sonny with a Chance. She later became a hit on Disney and starred in the beloved television movie, Camp Rock.
Unfortunately, Demi hasn’t had the easiest life. She has dealt with depression and bullying, and has also had issues with bulimia and self-harming. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has recently become an advocate for mental health.
She has been open about her personal struggles for so long, but she also has some family drama that she has dealt with privately. Demi was another victim of abuse-- Demi’s father would lash out on her and her sisters. She also had a secret older half-sister, who she didn’t learn about until she was twenty years old.
Demi held a lot of resentment towards her father, who passed away in 2013, and the relationship was still on the rocks when he passed away. It has been a family struggle to move past the pain that he caused.
9 Danny Bonaduce
Danny Bonaduce is best known for portraying Danny Partridge on The Partridge Family, which was a show about a family of musicians that ran for four seasons. Danny was sixteen years old when the show finally came to an end. Unfortunately, once the show concluded, he didn't have anywhere to live.
Danny's family didn't treat him too well, particularly his father. Danny's dad would be both physically and emotionally abusive towards him, and his parents didn't allow him to live with them once his time on The Partridge Family ended.
Since Danny's family so easily gave him up, he had to live in his car. Since he was no longer a star, they believed that he was not useless. The worst part is that Danny would park his car near the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so that he could walk around and be instantly recognized by fans, who had no idea that he was living in his car. He wasn’t able to admit this to anyone at the time.
8 Liv Tyler
Liv Tyler was a child actor due to the fact that she starred in her father’s music videos and a couple of movies before she turned eighteen. She’s most known for her adult roles, however, especially as Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, and her roles in The Leftovers and The Incredible Hulk.
While her name is now Liv Tyler, it used to be Liv Rundgren because she originally thought that her father was a rock musician named Todd Rundgren. Liv’s mother, Bebe Buell, was with Todd Rundgren when she found herself pregnant with Liv. However, it later became known that her real father is Steven Tyler.
Liv didn’t find out about this secret until she noticed something while in grade school. Liv realized there were similarities between her and Steven. She also noticed that she looked exactly like Steven’s daughter, Mia, who was only a year and a half younger than Liv. Liv went and asked her mom about it and her mom told her the truth. Liv is incredibly mellow about it, though, and continues to tell people that she loves her family.
7 Corey Feldman
Corey Feldman has always had family drama. It stems, for the most part, from both his and his mother's behaviour. Corey claimed that his mother was abusive, while she claimed that he made a lot of the abuse claims up merely for attention, but that some of it might be true. They’re occasionally on speaking terms, but other times it’s just chaos. It’s a dysfunctional, messed up, unhealthy family dynamic, to say the least.
You might recognize Corey as half of The Two Coreys, with the other half being the late Corey Haim. He also starred in The Goonies, The Lost Boys, and Stand by Me. He was a renowned child actor who was in almost every 1980s movie.
When Corey was fifteen years old, he emancipated himself from his parents, citing that his mother force-fed him diet pills and would beat him with a curtain rod. His parents always struggled when it came to looking out for their son’s best interest. However, his mother claims that they are still on speaking terms.
6 Macaulay Culkin
As one the most renowned childhood actors, Macaulay Culkin hasn’t always had it easy. While he played the charming, cute kid in what felt like almost every 1990s family movie, his life hasn’t always been glitter and rainbows. After finding success in Home Alone, Uncle Buck, and My Girl, Macaulay has struggled as an adult. He has been arrested and had some issues with drugs.
Macaulay Culkin’s father wasn’t the best. In what seems like an unfortunate trend in Hollywood, Macaulay sought emancipation from his parents. This resulted in arguments about money because his parents felt that they should be in control of what he had earned as an actor.
The family hadn’t had much money before Macaulay reached success in Hollywood. He was one of seven kids and they all lived in a small apartment in New York City.
5 Lindsay Lohan
Addiction problems run strong in the Lohan household. Lindsay rose to stardom when she first appeared in Disney’s remake of The Parent Trap.
She then went on to do more remakes including Freaky Friday and Herbie: Fully Loaded. She is probably most well known for her role in Mean Girls.
Lindsay’s mom is the ultimate stage mom. She wanted stardom for herself, and forced to Lindsay become an adult too quickly. Lindsay’s father, on the other hand, was dealing with his own problems.
He was convicted of insider trading and was sentenced to prison for three years, with five years of probation after that. He’s also had drug addiction problems. Unfortunately, this also means that Lindsay’s siblings haven’t had the best role models, so they’ve also have their own fair share of issues.
4 Jena Malone
Jena Malone is best known for her roles in Pride & Prejudice, Sucker Punch, Saved!, Into the Wild, and The Hunger Games. Her most notorious role when she was a kid was in the movie Stepmom, where she starred opposite to Julia Roberts. She’s been acting professionally since she was a preteen and has found great success in Hollywood.
Parents of child actors can be the worst when it comes to controlling money. Jena didn’t come from money as she, her mom, and her mom’s partner were all living in poverty and were occasionally homeless.
When she was fourteen years old, Jena found out that her mother had been mismanaging her money. In fact, her mom had lost a million dollars of Jena’s earnings. Her mother also wanted Jena to live in a tiny apartment in Las Vegas. Jena eventually took her mother to court and regained control of her money and life.
3 Mackenzie Phillips
Mackenzie Phillips is best known for her role as Julie Cooper in One Day at a Time, and was a teenager when she first starred on the show. She had been acting before she landed the role, so fans may also recognize her as Molly Phillips from So Weird.
Mackenzie’s past is a rather gruesome one. When she was only eleven years old, her father gave her drugs and injected her with cocaine and heroin. She had an issue with drugs after that. When she was nineteen years old, Mackenzie and her father had intercourse. She states that it happened during a blackout, but the relationship also continued for ten years after that.
Having called it consensual, Mackenzie said that at the time she felt like she wanted the relationship with her father, but then realized that he had been manipulating her. She became pregnant and didn’t know if the father of the baby was her husband or her own father.
This caused her to doubt so much that she had an abortion. Her whole family either sides with her or against her, with some not even believing her. It has caused a lot of turmoil.
2 Judy Garland
Best known for her role as Dorthy in The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was a popular actor in Hollywood, but she faced were a lot of issues at home. One of these issues included rumors that her father was having relationships with teenage boys, which caused her parents to frequently separate and get back together.
When she was ten years old, Judy was encouraged to perform. If her energy levels did not suffice when it came to her mother’s standards, her mother would give her pills to make her more energetic. Her mother was abusive and didn’t care if Judy was sick or upset, as she would force Judy to perform anyway.
Judy didn’t have the best life, and the studio she was signed to wasn’t very nice to her. She followed her parents' footsteps and some believe that she never found happiness. Before she passed away, she had been married five times.
She passed away due to substance abuse issues-- which mostly likely stemmed from her mother giving her pills at such a young age-- when she was forty seven years old.
1 Judith Barsi
Judith Barsi was known for her roles in Jaws and Eye of the Tiger, as well as her voice-over roles as Ducky in the dinosaur movie The Land Before Time and as Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven. Her father, József Barsi, had struggled and fled Communist Hungary after the 1956 Soviet occupation.
Judith began rising to fame quickly which only seemed to make her father upset. József had issues with alcohol addiction and would regularly threaten to not only kill himself, but his wife and daughter too.
Judith once told someone that she got a nose bleed from her dad throwing a pot at her face. In order to calm herself when her dad upset her, she would pick out her eyelashes. A therapist finally called Child Protective Services.
Sadly, Judith's mom convinced them that she would take care of it. On a devastating evening when Judith was only ten years old, her father shot her in the head while she was asleep. He then shot his wife. With both his daughter and wife killed, József stayed inside his home for two days. He then lit the bodies on fire and shot himself in the head.
Do you know of any other child actors who grew up with dysfunctional families? Let us know in the comments.