Whether it’s as the cute companion or the wise-cracking sidekick, children have played important parts in some of the biggest films of all time. Unfortunately, the transition for these little thespians into adult stars has proved a gruelling one. However, learning from the mistakes and successes of young actors of the past, below I have compiled a list of sure-fire ways to survive the dreaded curse child-stars…
1) Get a sex appeal.
Now, don’t get me wrong, sex appeal is not enough (see: Megan Fox). On the other hand a little bit of sexy can propel an already decent performer that much further. We’ve seen it time and time again when that plain-looking adolescent blossoms into that confident stunner, and their career blossoms with them: that awkward tomboy from The Princess Diaries becomes Catwoman; that little, annoying one from That 70’s Show becomes a sultry (not to mention bi-curious) ballet dancer; and chubby, little Sharkboy becomes a werewolf with washboard abs.
2) Avoid drugs.
Perhaps the biggest career-killer that the youth of Hollywood face is drugs. Picture the scene: you’re young, you’re funny, you were in The Goonies AND Gremlins, and the world is your oyster. It’s obvious that the ugly face of drug addiction will make an appearance, but that’s when you decline and work on your career. By the way, I’m not using this article to preach an anti-drugs message; it’s just that the world does not need another Cory Feldman.
3) Don’t Rely on Cuteness.
Sure, you’re cute now, but puberty can be a bitch. Once the adorability has faded, you’re going to need something more substantial to prolong you’re career. Nobody wants to see a gangly teenager with acne booby-trapping a house and terrorising Joe Pesci. Audiences will forgive acting mistakes when they come from a cute 10 year old, but that forgiveness can soon run out. Interestingly, it turns out audiences will also (just about) forgive a cute 10 year old for being the second worse thing in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace.
4) Start Intense, Stay Intense.
As strange as it may seem, child actors seem to excel in Hollywood when they avoid family films. At any age, the demanding, more-adult roles would appear to be the best starting platform for a lengthy and successful career. For example, two of the biggest and most intense actors in Hollywood today, Christian Bale and Leonardo Di Caprio, started their careers with seriously powerful performances. Bale was handpicked by Steven Spielberg at the age of 13 to star in Empire of the Sun, and Di Caprio earned an Oscar nomination for his role in What Eating Gilbert Grape. It’s not just the men either; take Natalie Portman’s beyond-her-years turn in Léon: The Professional.
5) Avoid Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ok, so maybe it isn’t directly Arnie’s fault, but in the past he has had an uncanny talent for starring with young actors that are never heard from again. First, there was Edward Furlong, who played the young John Connor in Terminator 2, who has struggled to get acting work since. Next, little Austin O’Brien who starred alongside Arnie in The Last Action Hero, who like most that worked on that film, was never heard from again. Then there was Jake Lloyd of Jingle All The Way, who asides from being the worst incarnation of Anakin Skywalker, has rarely acted since. That’s not even mentioning those poor children from Kindergarten Cop.
6) Be Ryan Gosling.
…because at any age, there’s nothing he can’t do.