20 Movie Stars Who Share About The Highs And Lows Of Being A Child Actor

Many of our favorite actors and actresses have spent their whole lives in Hollywood. Whether they had famous parents, or they just started chasing their dream in their youth,  many celebrities started their careers as just a kid. Drew Barrymore is a great example of how being young in Hollywood has its pros and cons.
Being a child star may actually be quite enjoyable. And if you asked each child star what makes their life in the spotlight amazing, they would give you similar replies. Everyone wants their name to be known, and young celebrities do it before they are even 18 years old. There are certain drawbacks, though. You might be surprised to learn that a child star's life is not as picture-perfect as it may seem. There are many challenges and dangers when someone becomes a star at a very young age.
For more details, keep reading to see what these child actors share about their life in the movie industry at a very young age.

#1 Jennette McCurdy Was Offered $300,000 To Not Speak About Her Experiences On Her Nickelodeon Shows

Source: iCarly / Nickelodeon

With her portrayal of Sam Puckett in iCarly and subsequent appearances in the spinoff Sam & Cat, Jennette McCurdy rose to fame on Nickelodeon while still in her teens. However, becoming an actor was never a desire of mine but was her mother's.
Jennette McCurdy said that a $300,000 deal was offered to her in exchange for her silence on her experiences on her Nickelodeon shows. Jennette was horrified and wrote:
"What the f---? Nickelodeon is offering me three hundred thousand dollars in hush money to not talk publicly about my experience on the show? My personal experience of The Creator's abuse? This is a network with shows made for children. Shouldn't they have some sort of moral compass? Shouldn't they at least try to report to some sort of ethical standard?"

#2 Drew Barrymore Revealed That After ‘E.T.,’ ‘Life Got Really Weird’ And People Let Her Into Nightclubs At Age 8

Source: Universal Pictures

Barrymore became one of the most well-known child actresses in the world when Steven Spielberg cast her as Gertie in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), when she was just six years old.
However, the young performer was having difficulties off-screen; she shared with People magazine about her life since Spielberg chose her to play Gertie:
"From the time I became famous in E.T., my life got really weird... It was frightening. I was this 7-year-old who was expected to be going on a mature 29. By the time I was 8½, I felt like I was some abnormal, crazy girl. I could walk up to the door of any nightclub and they’d say, “Hi, you’re that little girl. Come in.”

#3 Christina Ricci Said Early Fame Made It Difficult To Distinguish Between What Was Hollywood And What Was Real

Source: The Addams Family / Paramount Pictures

When Christina Ricci was performing in a school production of The Twelve Days of Christmas, a theatrical critic spotted her. When she informed the teacher about how she had been teased by her rival, who had previously won the main role, he was forced to give up and she took over. Ricci then assumed the position. In an interview with The New Yorker in 2008, the actor described as follows: "I’ve always been a really ambitious person. I guess that’s the first time it really reared its ugly head. That whole Chorus Line, f**king-other-actors-over thing, I got that out of my system then. Apparently, my 7-year-old self was like, You. Need. This."

#4 Jackie Coogan Is Considered The First Child Star, Earning An Estimated $4 Million In His Career; The Mismanagement Of His Earnings Led To Enactment Of Law Protecting Child Actors

Source: The Kid / First National

Jackie Coogan is well-known to viewers of the iconic television series The Addams Family as the actor who played Uncle Fester. Jackie Coogan is regarded as the first child star, earning an estimated $4 million. However, he didn't realize his mother and stepfather had squandered the most of his money until he was 21. He ultimately filed a lawsuit against them. This case led to the enactment of the California Child Actors Bill of 1939 - commonly known as the "Coogan Act" - which addressed issues such as how many hours a child actor could work and attend school.

#5 Fred Savage Said His Friends Treated Him Normally When He Became Famous, But Some Of His Teachers Were ‘Starstruck’

Source: The Wonder Years / ABC

At the age of six, Fred Savage landed his first acting gig in a commercial. His breakout part as Kevin Arnold on the television series The Wonder Years was cast when he was just 11 years old. His pals were unaffected by his celebrity, but one of his professors was "starstruck," as the budding actor revealed to Redbook magazine in a 1989 interview (when he was 13):
"I had this one teacher who was really easy on me - she kept giving me a lot of breaks. I appreciated them, but I felt bad that the other kids weren't getting them, too."
The actor acknowledged that in order to pursue his job, he had to give up some things, including being able to spend as much time with his friends. "You have to dedicate yourself to acting. You have to practice and you have to make sacrifices. The biggest sacrifice I had to make was moving from Chicago to California."

#6 Shirley Temple Believed Her Fame Happened Because People Were Eager For Someone Or Something To Cheer Them Up During The Depression

Source: Curly Top / 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation

Shirley Temple gained recognition three years later with the movie Bright Eyes (1934), and from 1935 until 1938, she dominated the nation's box office. Her home studio, 20th Century Fox, was credited with avoiding bankruptcy thanks in part to the popularity of her films.
She also struggled with the transition from child to adult actress, like many child performers before and after her, and she quit at the age of 22, shortly after her 1950 marriage to her second husband. Temple once expressed a pretty realistic opinion of her fame, saying: "I class myself with Rin Tin Tin [the dog that was a big film star for a few years]. At the end of the Depression, people were perhaps looking for something to cheer themselves up. They fell in love with a dog and a little girl. It won't happen again."

#7 Haley Joel Osment Said That Because His Mom Taught Him To Read At A Young Age, He Understood Scenes Much Sooner Than Other Kid Actors

Source: The Sixth Sense / Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

"I see dead people."
In addition to helping Haley Joel Osment become an overnight success at the age of 11, the iconic line from The Sixth Sense (1999) also earned him an Academy Award nod for Best Supporting Actor, making him the second-youngest performer to ever be nominated for that particular award.
Haley Joel Osment claimed that he understood scenes far sooner than other young actors since his parents had taught him to read at a young age. “With my dad coming from a theatre tradition, there was a lot of preparation before auditions,” he said. “Not just in terms of saying the lines correctly, but a process of entering into what it was all about. With The Sixth Sense, my dad and I discussed how this was not so much a horror story as a story about communication. I understudied with my dad, in a sense. It made a huge difference.”

#8 Leonardo DiCaprio Said At One ‘Cutthroat' Audition As A Child, Tobey Maguire's Mom Warned Her Son To Watch Out For Leo

Source: This Boy's Life / Warner Bros. Pictures

One of his generation's most critically and financially successful actors is Leonardo DiCaprio. More than $7 billion has been made at the box office thanks to the Movies he has been in, and he has been nominated for an Academy Award for acting six times, with one victory (Best Actor in 2016 for his performance in The Revenant). Early on, DiCaprio showed an interest in acting, and at age 14, he landed his first professional role in a Matchbox car ad. He received his first major film role at the age of 18, as novelist Tobias Wolfe in This Boy's Life (1993).
Maguire, one of the other finalists for the role in This Boy's Life, warned her son to watch out for Leo.

#9 Neil Patrick Harris Said Being So Well-Known During His Most Awkward Teen Years Made Him Overly Aware Of Himself

Source: Doogie Howser, M.D. / ABC

When Harris was a teenager, he initially caught huge attention. The 16-year-old was cast in the lead role of the television series Doogie Howser, M.D., portraying a 16-year-old who, at age 14, became the youngest doctor in the United States. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his debut feature film, 1988's Clara's Heart, and appeared in a few television movies before being cast in the series. For his depiction of the genius who tried to reconcile his medical profession with attempting to be a regular adolescent, Harris ultimately won a Golden Globe.
In a 2014 interview with NPR, Harris said that as a teenager, he found it difficult to deal with his reputation, particularly in terms of understanding how to present himself: "Growing up, especially having done a TV show when I was younger, I was recognized more. I didn't have 100 percent anonymity when I walked around in those years when I felt most awkward - through puberty, in my late teens where I had big ears and acne and an Adam's apple. Maybe [I was] overly aware and conscientious of how I was carrying myself. I wanted to be an actor who could play different types of roles, so I didn't choose one way to carry myself. I chose a way that was ... kind of Switzerland, in the middle: Stand tall, but don't strut; walk straight. ... And I was hyperaware of how I came across because I didn't want to be overly effeminate. I didn't want to be walking like I was a tough guy - I was oddly concerned about it."

#10 Jodie Foster Believed Being A Child Star May Have Saved Her From Having To Deal With Sexual Harassment

Source: Taxi Driver / Columbia Pictures

Jodie Foster, a two-time Academy Award winner, would undoubtedly be at the top of any list of child actresses who went on to become famous as adults. Foster's first acting gig was in a Coppertone commercial when she was just three years old, and she made her feature film debut at the age of nine in the Disney picture Napoleon and Samantha (1972). At the age of 14, she received her first significant break when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for playing a juvenile prostitute in the movie Taxi Driver (1976).
Foster acknowledged in a 2016 interview with Parade magazine that she didn't think she would pursue acting for very long as a child: "To me, acting didn't seem like much of a profession. My mom always said, “By the time you're 16, your career will be over. So what do you want to do then?” She was correct. Most child actors' careers end early. They're lost."
"The truth is, if I'd been an ambassador's daughter or grown up on a farm in Missouri, I wouldn't have had a normal childhood either. I had the only childhood I knew", she added.
A decade or so later, at the start of the #MeToo movement, Foster remarked in an interview with Net-a-Porter about how her experiences as a child actress may have prevented her from experiencing some of the problems other female actors have had to deal with, such being sexually harassed: "The weird cauldron that made me - working from the time I was three years old, supporting my family by the time that I was seven, super-strong mom, over-confident personality, celebrity young enough that I learned to be stand-offish… I think there are a whole bunch of reasons why I didn’t have the same path as someone who came to Hollywood at 22 with two cents in her pocket and just wanted more than anything else to be an actor. It’s just a different life."

#11 Daniel Radcliffe Said He Had Plenty Of Time To Be A Kid On The ‘Harry Potter’ Set - More So Than If He’d Gone To Regular School

Source: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone / Warner Bros. Pictures

At the age of 10, Daniel Radcliffe made his acting debut in the David Copperfield television movie produced by BBC One (1999). His portrayal of the title character in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first in a series of eight movies based on J.K. Rowling's fantasy novels about Harry and his friends at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, pushed him to celebrity two years later. In all eight of the movies, the most recent of which was released in 2011, Radcliffe played Harry.
When Radcliffe was 21 years old and promoting the last installment of the series, Katie Couric of CBS News asked him whether he had any regrets about having spent the majority of his life working on set: "I don't feel in any way robbed, because the thing is, growing up on those sets, you were still allowed to be a kid. There was never a sense of, you know, of any time being taken away from my childhood. You know, you could get away with a lot more running around and playing games on a film set than you can at school, certainly. So while I didn't have a normal childhood in the sense that I wasn't going to school every day, that I was going to a film set instead, you know. I was still around a lot of other kids, I was still having a huge amount of fun. I was learning as well, because obviously I had [classes] on set. So it was “unconventional” is the word I think I'd use. But it was so exciting."

#12 Anna Chlumsky Said She Felt Like She ‘Was For Sale’ As A Child Actor

Source: My Girl / Columbia Pictures

In the 1990s, Anna Chlumsky initially attracted the attention of Hollywood as a young actor.
Growing up in Chicago, Chlumsky's childhood was basically normal. The 11-year-old was then chosen to play the lead role in the 1991 movie My Girl. In the movie, Macauley Culkin, who had recently had the tremendous success of Home Alone, played her best buddy. Chlumsky rose to fame after her song My Girl became a hit, making her mother/manager her primary source of income. She said that she did not feel treated fairly when she was a child star in an interview with The Independent (U.K.) in 2022.
Chlumsky left Hollywood in her late teens, eventually earning a degree in international studies from college, and going on to pursue a career in publishing. In 2005, she started acting again. "The years away definitely gave me perspective. Going to college was my first act of standing up for myself and asking myself what I wanted, making my own decisions. You’ve got to start somewhere, if you didn’t get to start at the optimal age."

#13 Sean Astin Said His Movie-Star Parents (Patty Duke And John Astin) Kept Him Grounded In Normalcy

Source: The Goonies / Warner Bros.

Sean Astin's career as an actor is not surprising. After all, he grew up surrounded by Hollywood elite; his mother is Patty Duke, who was only 16 when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Helen Keller in the movie The Miracle Worker and later received her own TV comedy (The Patty Duke Show). And when Duke and John Astin, who starred in the 1960s sitcom The Addams Family, decided to adopt him, he was just a toddler.
In a 2012 interview with IGN, the actor stated he was a performer long before he got his first acting job (at age 10). “I definitely had a very strong performance bent to my personality from a very young age, and I think my parents nurtured it, fostered it, and encouraged it, and I think my mother allowed me to have a very strong personality, and allowed my spirit to soar as a vocal, outspoken kid. I'm talking 2, 3, 4 years old kind of thing, so I'm sure that the die was cast way back then in terms of my desire to lean forward into this lifestyle, for lack of a better term.”

#14 Paul Petersen Was Advised To Get Out Of Hollywood And Get An Education

Source: The Donna Reed Show / ABC

By playing Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s, Paul Petersen became well-known. He established the nonprofit organization A Minor Consideration as an adult to fight for the rights and safety of all child actors, past and present.
Even under ideal conditions, young performers must overcome difficulties for which they may be unprepared, according to Petersen in an interview for McIntyre in the Morning: "It’s not just the work. Remember, you’re limited by law to being on the set for eight and a half hours. It’s the rest of your life that gets thrown in a cocked hat. The thing about becoming famous when you’re young is that it never goes away. It affects your parents, it affects your siblings; it affects those friendships that you’re able to hang on to. And it doesn’t quit."
Petersen went on to say that he was fortunate to have Mickey Rooney as a mentor because he had formerly been a well-known child actor in the 1930s: "[Rooney] actually came to my house as my career was going in the toilet and said to me, “Paul, you’ve got to get out of town, get your education because Paul they’ll never let you work here.” And I said, “Why are telling me this?” And he said, “Because, Paul, it happened to me.”

#15 Dakota Fanning Said She Hates When People Ask If She Missed Out On Being A Kid As A Child Star - She Didn’t

Source: I Am Sam / New Line Cinema

Dakota Fanning, who in 2001 at the age of eight became the youngest person to ever be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for her work in I Am Sam, has admitted that she finds these queries to be bothersome.
In a 2018 interview for Variety's "Actors on Actors" series with fellow former child actor Freddie Highmore, the actor, who was 24 at the time, admitted: "I feel like I have to defend my life, and then it’s like when you hear someone, like, overly defending you’re like, “Oh, they must be overcompensating for something.” So you’re walking this line of defending yourself, but not too much, because I don’t have anything to defend. … When I look back and I think of the experiences being an actor has brought me, I just don’t know a lot of other people our age who have been to the places we’ve been and met all different kinds of people and the friendships. It’s added so much to my life and it does kind of hurt me a little bit when people try and somehow turn it into a negative and I don’t like it."

#16 Kirsten Dunst Said Kissing Brad Pitt When She Was 11 For ‘Interview with the Vampire’ Was Her Worst Film Experience

Source: Warner Bros.

While many female actresses would have been excited to have the opportunity to kiss Brad Pitt on-screen, Kirsten Dunst was not. Naturally, when their Interview with the Vampire characters shared a father-daughter kiss in a scene, she was 11 years old and Pitt was 31.
Dunst talked about working on the movie in an interview she gave to Grazia magazine in 2021. Although she admitted she grumbled about having to kiss the much older actor, the kid actor said the experience was nice overall. “That was the worst thing I did and also having obviously to kiss Brad Pitt at that point,” Dunst said. “I was a little girl and he was like a brother to me and it was very weird even though it was a peck. I was very not into it.”
This was in line with how she had previously responded to the situation. The 11-year-old had revealed to Entertainment Tonight shortly after the movie's completion that: "I hated [the kiss] so much because Brad was like my older brother on set and it's kind of like kissing your brother. It's weird because he's an older guy and I had to kiss him on the lips, so it was gross."

#17 Kurt Russell Said He Mainly Wanted To Be A Child Actor For The Money

Source: Travels of Jamie McPheeters / ABC

Kurt Russell has been a working actor for almost 60 years; he made his film debut at the age of 12 in the 1963 movie It Happened at the World's Fair (in an uncredited part). Later that year, he received the lead part in the TV show The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. The 15-year-old actor joined The Walt Disney Company in 1966 and was given a 10-year contract. Within the first few years, he became the studio's biggest star.
Russell's father played minor league baseball before transitioning to acting. Russell shared his father's enthusiasm for baseball when he was little. through acting? Not really. He said in a 1989 GQ interview that he auditioned for a movie when he was approximately 10 years old only to meet Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, two of his favorite MLB players. He wasn't cast in the role and he didn't get to meet his heroes. He immediately saw that acting would enable him to achieve his objective sooner than being a paperboy would if he wanted to earn enough money to purchase himself and his sister the bicycles they desired:
"The easy answer, and the one that's gotten me into a lot of trouble is, yeah, the money. It was just fun to do and, God, you know, I couldn't believe the amount of money you could make."

#18 Raven-Symoné Said She Tried To Hide She Was Gay As A Kid Because She Worried About Her Public Image

Source: The Cosby Show / NBC

When Raven-Symoné was four years old, Lisa Bonet's character Denise Huxtable-stepdaughter Kendall's Olivia Kendall (played by Raven-Symoné) appeared on The Cosby Show. She received her own program, That's So Raven, on The Disney Channel when she was 15 years old. She was ranked among the 100 greatest child stars of all time by VH1 in 2012.
The actor came out in 2013, but a year later she told Oprah Winfrey that she didn't want to be categorized as gay in any manner.  “I don't want to be labeled ‘gay.’ I want to be labeled ‘a human who loves humans.’ I'm tired of being labeled," she says. "I'm an American. I'm not an African-American; I'm an American."

#19 Mayim Bialik Said Being On TV As A Kid Made Her Feel Even More Like An Outsider Than She Already Did In Real Life

Source: Blossom / NBC

Mayim Bialik had an unique childhood even before she was an actor. Her parents were first-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe who observed different holidays than Bialik's friends and spoke their native tongue at home instead of English. Therefore, she explained the following to Yahoo! Entertainment in 2021: "I don't know if I felt normal growing up. But I don't think that had to do with the fact that I was a child actor - I think that I came from a really unusual family. So nothing felt normal for me. I always felt different. [But] Being on television definitely ... made me feel like more of an outsider. Being in the public eye is definitely abnormal. But there was a lot about my life that was still normal: I was still treated like a normal kid who had to go to school and do my chores and be picked on by my brother."
The 15-year-old actress was cast in the lead part of the sitcom Blossom after securing jobs such as cameos on the sitcoms The Facts of Life and Webster and portraying the younger version of Bette Midler's character in the movie Beaches. According to the actor, the cast of the show, together with her parents and management, helped her remain level-headed the play's four and a half-year run: "I definitely felt protected on the set of Blossom. I never saw drugs or alcohol or anything like that. It felt like a very safe place to grow up. I've been very lucky in that. sense."
Bialik left Hollywood when Blossom's run was over in order to concentrate on her studies, completing both a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in neuroscience. After a 12-year sabbatical, she ultimately got back into acting, and when she joined the cast of the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory, she gained newfound popularity.
Bialik, a mother of two, revealed what she has advised them on pursuing a career in acting as a possible future path: “If you're interested in acting, make sure that you have a vocation as your back-up. Do something else because not every actor is employed: most actors are not employed!” And, she added, "Growing up in front of millions of people is not easy."

#20 Macaulay Culkin Said He's Always Around 8 ‘In Some Place' Because He Never Got To Be That Age In Real Life

Source: Home Alone / 20th Century Fox

When Macaulay Culkin was four years old, he started acting. He was chosen to play Kevin McCallister in Home Alone when he was nine years old. The comedy became one of the highest-grossing movies of the 1990s and made its young star, who was paid $110,000 for the first movie, into a major star. He received $4.5 million to repeat his part in the sequel.
Culkin, who was 20 at the time, said in an interview with New York magazine that he couldn't recall ever not being famous."Maybe some spotted memories here and there of going to the park with my mother. But it’s hard for me to remember a time when people weren’t staring at me for one reason or another. Teenagers are the ones who are hardest to handle. Their parents raised them watching my movies, so they feel they can say whatever they want to me."
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