At times, early Hollywood stardom can be a cautionary tale. We often see people in Hollywood shooting to superstardom immediately, only to then fall down a dark path, whether it’s down the path of addictions of some kind or industry irrelevance. It’s a consistent but unfortunate pattern that is a risk for all Hollywood figures, with child stars being the most susceptible out of anyone.
The causes of these downfalls vary greatly, with an untrustworthy support system or poor decisions following significant success usually being the primary reasons behind their career plunges. It’s always disappointing to reflect on many potentially great careers that were cut short at a young age, especially when it feels like it could’ve been preventable.
However, it’s not all doom-and-gloom on this list as there are both childhood success stories and stars on promising roads to recovery. We’ll point out those that have had a rough start at stardom since their initial debuts and acknowledge how things are looking for them personally. We’ll also cover the child stars who were lucky enough to find consistent work and avoid troubling decisions over the course of their lives.
Here are 8 Child Stars Doing Well For Themselves (And 7 Not Doing So Well).
15. Jason Bateman – Doing Well
While few people would’ve assumed that the lead actor in Teen Wolf Too would become one of Hollywood’s most successful comedic actors, it’s impressive to see how much Bateman’s star power has increased since his days on Little House On The Prairie.
Bateman hit the ground running with his first few commercials and starring roles at the age of 4, before he took on roles in Little House and the show Silver Spoons which kickstarted his television-heavy career in the ’80s.
His first film was the heavily-panned Teen Wolf Too, which much later led to Arrested Development that became a true showcase of his comedic range and ensured that his talent level was too high to ignore. The show’s popularity garnered enough attention to cement his place as a staple of Hollywood’s comedy films.
14. Shia LaBeouf – Not Doing As Well
Nowadays, Shia LaBeouf may mostly be known for being a funny internet personality. However, it was with roles in Even Stevens and Holes that he became a face people recognized. He was another promising talent who seemed to get in occasional trouble, but once he started wearing bags to movie premieres and having outbursts too often, then it became more questionable.
Fame and high expectations seemed to set him off, leading to multiple incidents.
Because of these, his reputation within Hollywood became a detriment rather than an asset. Acting-wise, he’s still cutting his teeth with movies like American Honey and Borg vs McEnroe where he’s shown his still-present acting talent. He may not get more offers for blockbusters, but hopefully LaBeouf continues to showcase his talents.
13. Leonardo DiCaprio – Doing Well
Leonardo DiCaprio serves as a great example of “their start doesn’t represent their finish.” Making his debut in Hollywood with the low-quality movie Critters 3, it didn’t take long for him to show his clear fame-worthy talent. A year later, DiCaprio was hand-picked by Robert De Niro to star alongside him in 1992’s This Boy’s Life, followed by an Oscar-nominated portrayal of a mentally-challenged young boy in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape a year later.
The star’s resume nowadays speaks for itself as the Oscar winner has released plenty of amazing performances while working alongside some of Hollywood’s most elite directors. The actor is currently working on another Martin Scorsese flick called The Irishman where he’ll finally be reunited with Robert De Niro, twenty six years after their last project together.
12. Macaulay Culkin – Not Doing As Well
An unfortunately notorious example of childhood stardom not equating to a long-lasting career is Kevin McCallister himself, Macaulay Culkin. Following an immense amount of exposure in the ’90s, Culkin dropped off the Hollywood map. Once 1994 hit, he took a nine year break from acting, returning to star in a movie all the way in 2003.
Outside of that though, he was unable to find consistent work and has been largely absent ever since.
His struggles with substances and the party scene have been well-documented, as well as his controversial relationship with Michael Jackson. Nevertheless, he has recently become more open and made some encouraging comments, going against his previously closed-off nature. Culkin acknowledges and has accepted his place outside of Hollywood now, but continues to find happiness with his podcast and website bunnyears.com.
11. Drew Barrymore – Doing Well
Starting off as another child star made by Steven Spielberg, Drew Barrymore was determined to be more. She became a star at seven years-old and, much like many other stars of similar ages, struggled at first.
Yet, that still didn’t stop Barrymore from powering through it all and continuing her career with movies like The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, and now finds herself staying busy with Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet.
A happily married, proud mother, Barrymore finds herself in the rare position of being a child star who went through some struggles, but managed to buck the trend and come out the other side. Needless to say, we’re excited to see what the former child star has in store for us in the future.
10. Corey Feldman – Not Doing As Well
Corey Feldman’s story is one of a talented, promising talent who has seemingly been negatively affected by all the ugly parts of the industry. With prominent roles in Stand By Me, The Goonies, and The Lost Boys, it seemed that Feldman’s star power would be present in Hollywood for a while.
As Feldman himself has stated, it was his early days as an actor that led to plenty painful memories.
His close friend’s Corey Haim’s struggle to cope with abuse, along with his personal struggles dealing with substance abuse, has led to far too much personal troubles for any one person to endure. Thankfully, even with some tough-to-watch public performances, Feldman is hoping to continue a happy life with his wife and son.
9. Josh Peck – Doing Well
He may have been considered the uncool brother in Drake and Josh, but things are going pretty smoothly for Josh Peck nowadays. Following D&J‘s ending, he found occasional voiceover work and got a new show with John Stamos called Grandfathered. As far as controversies go, Peck has managed to stay out of trouble. In fact, the only standout bit of controversy came when he didn’t invite his former co-star Drake Bell to his wedding.
Starting in 2017, Peck seemed intent on taking a small step back from Hollywood to start his own YouTube channel. It’s a collaborative effort with other popular YouTuber David Dobrik and Peck’s wife Paige O’Brien. The channel has achieved strong success with over 1 million subscribers as Peck uploads vlogs and collaborative videos with a variety of other popular internet personalities.
8. Edward Furlong – Not Doing As Well
As this list has shown, no talent is invulnerable to the negative temptations of stardom. Edward Furlong, the promising young actor who played John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, was no exception. Following the big-screen opportunities he had to work alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liam Neeson, and Meryl Streep, the all-too-tempting side of Hollywood took hold of Furlong and transformed his bright future into a far dimmer one.
Several arrests on DUI and driving without a license charges showed the developing problems, along with some trouble with addiction. Add in multiple ex-wives accusing him of crimes and you’ve got a troubled former star. There are no clear next steps for the actor to take, but we hope he finds his way.
7. Daniel Radcliffe – Doing Well
From a boy wizard in Harry Potter to a human swiss army knife in Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe has established a successful career for himself. That being said, it was by no means an easy road to success. In his early days, every one of his films were plagued with a problem — it was a consistent problem throughout much of his Harry Potter run. During the final film in the series, he stated his intention to quit and succeeded.
His post-HP filmography has been indie-focused, allowing him to engage in more experimental stories, something he clearly enjoys, judging by his recent filmography.
He’s also done multiple shows on Broadway like 2008 production of Equus and 2011’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Hopefully we get to see this former boy wizard on-screen for many more years to come.
6. Frankie Muniz – Not Doing As Well
Known best for his lead role in the FOX show Malcolm and the Middle, Frankie Muniz seemed like someone who could maintain a consistent presence on people’s TV screens for a good amount of time. However, following Malcolm‘s series finale in 2006, Muniz didn’t get the gigs he used to, leading to a long absence from entertainment.
Likely a mixture of personal choice and physical limitations, Muniz revealed during his 2016 run on Dancing With The Stars that he’s had worsening memory issues. When asked about his favorite memories from the show or his trip to the Emmys, he remarked: “I can’t really remember much about that.“
Thankfully, it seems he’s at peace with his new lifestyle away from acting and has embraced his memory loss, stating that it hasn’t made him afraid of being thankful of getting to live his dream.
5. Nicholas Hoult – Doing Well
He may be known for turning blue as Beast in the newest X-Men movies or his portrayal of the manic Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road, but Nicholas Hoult is another talent who started working in the industry right around the time everyone else was still in elementary school. Starring in theatre productions at the ripe age of 3 and making his Hollywood debut at 11, he showed a great work ethic at an early age and earned his current prominent place in the industry.
His first break was with the U.K version of Skins, allowing him opportunities to showcase his range and progress his own acting skills.
He quit school after the first season to focus solely on acting, making acting his full-time profession. Next year, he’ll be returning as Beast for X-Men: Dark Phoenix and portraying author J. R. R. Tolkien in the film Tolkien.
4. Lindsay Lohan – Not Doing As Well
Lindsay Lohan is an example of a person who got into trouble with the law and never learned her lesson. She had been largely thriving in her career with Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, and Mean Girls, but her personal life quickly got worse over time. Starting with 2007, things started taking a turn for the worse — multiple arrests and a trip to court-mandated rehab proved as foreshadowing for what would characterize much of her future personal struggles.
Many things likely instigated this back-and-forth Lohan has with the law, and her career never really has been able to rise above it. The occasional role in small films and her recent attempted lawsuit against Rockstar Games for the supposed use of her likeness are what we’ve seen from her recently.
3. Jesse Plemons – Doing Well
He may be Matt Damon’s long-lost twin, but Jesse Plemons has earned plenty of deserved recognition to set him apart from the rest. Getting his start with commercials at the age of 3 and gaining some attention with Friday Night Lights, Plemons is a great representation of how no role is ever too small. Keep at your craft, get as much work as possible, and you will soon get the opportunity to shine.
Plemons’ opportunities to shine have increased with each new project, starting with his recurring role in Breaking Bad.
Following that, he appeared more prominently in higher-profile projects like Fargo, Black Mirror, and 2018’s Game Night. With a role in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman in 2019, Plemons seems intent on continuing to stand out from the crowd and show that taking roles, regardless of their size, can lead to a strong place in the industry.
2. Amanda Bynes – Not Doing As Well
It’s tough out there for child stars of the early 2000’s. Amanda Bynes gained fame for her work on Nickelodeon’s The Amanda Show and All That where she showed a clear likability and stage presence. Sadly, much like all of these other examples, trouble became a bit too difficult to avoid. Multiple charges ruined a good amount of her standing in Hollywood.
Following 2010’s Easy A, she hasn’t acted much — the years following that movie were definitely dark times for the young actress, especially with no acting jobs to keep her busy. Thankfully, it does seem that she’s in a far better place now, as there was talk of TV producers trying to recruit her for a return to Nickelodeon, although it’s unclear if she’d come back to acting after her hiatus.
1. Ryan Gosling – Doing Well
From the Mickey Mouse Club to a Blade Runner sequel, who would’ve thought Ryan Gosling would be known for his wide range of acting. For Gosling, his start came with a role in The Mickey Mouse Club in 1993, where his fame began to grow.
He appeared in shows like Are You Afraid Of The Dark? and Goosebumps, which served as steady work before he broke into the film industry.
After electrifying audiences with his performance in 2001’s The Believer, his star grew even more. Then, as soon as The Notebook released, Ryan Gosling was here to stay. Ever since, he’s bounced back and forth between romantic comedies, indie movies, and the occasional blockbuster. His next project will see him portraying Neil Armstrong and reuniting with director Damien Chazelle for 2018’s First Man.
Who was your favorite child star? Let us know in the comments!
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