We often hear of child stars failing in the spotlight, but we should all take a step back and remember that some of the most successful child stars in Hollywood are people that we just adore! I can’t imagine how it must be growing up in the spotlight. We always talk about how child stars end up in rehab or some other awful place. At the end of the day though, there are plenty of child actors who grew up fantastically! So here’s my list of the 11 most successful child stars that we can’t get enough of.
1 Joseph Gordon-Levitt
JGL. I love this guy, and after watching Inception, I’m sure half the female population agrees with me. He’s hands down one of the most successful child stars in the business, and there’s good reason for that. He’s ridiculously good-looking, impeccably talented, and seems like the coolest, most down to earth person ever. He’s made fun of his old days from when he was on 3rd Rock from the Sun, stripped his way into our hearts on SNL, runs his own collaborative arts initiative called Hit Record, and he can also sing. And he and I share the same birthday; I like to feel special because of that.
2 Leonardo DiCaprio
We don’t often think of the great Leo as a child star, but he was. He was 15 when he first started acting, and he’s nearly 40 years old now. Leo has been in the business for a very long time, and no one can deny the amount of talent this man has. He’s grown from being a teen heartthrob to being one of the most coveted, well respected, and talented actors of this generation. His personal life is hardly splashed about in the gossip magazines, and he somehow still manages to land the most gorgeous women in the world. He’s definitely one of the most successful child stars Hollywood has ever seen!
3 Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is wonderful. She’s beautiful (this is a fact), smart (Harvard educated, my friends), talented (she has an Oscar), and speaks 7 languages (fluent in English and Hebrew). Aside from being one of the most successful child stars, she’s probably one of the most successful people in the business! She was 13 years old when she nabbed the role of Mathilda in Leon: The Professional, which is now a cult classic, and she’s never looked back. She was brave enough to take time off her work to go get herself an education, and devoted herself so wholeheartedly to her performance in Black Swan that she won an Oscar for it. Go Natalie!
4 Elijah Wood
Once named the most talented actor of his generation, Elijah Wood is also, without a doubt, one of the most successful child actors in Hollywood. We all know him from The Lord of the Rings, and despite how big that movie became, this blue-eyed cutie never let it get to his head. No reports of going crazy, dancing in the clubs, going to rehab, or any of those child-star clichés. Since then, he’s continued to show off his talents, and the film industry is all the better for it. Plus, he has his own record label, his own musical acts, and was the first person to ever cross the Victoria Falls by rope. Google those falls, it’s gorgeous, but I can’t imagine even wanting to cross that on a suspended bridge.
5 Drew Barrymore
I think Drew is the role model of child stars. Most of us know her story: she was in E.T., looking absolutely adorable, then somewhere in between she grew up, got into the world of drugs and drinking, then was able to pull herself out of that dark place. Now she’s one of the most successful child stars in the world, an actress, a producer, and one of the most talented actresses in the industry! I don’t think there’s much else we can say about her. Considering how far she’s come, she’s living proof that you can always turn your life around. We all fall down, but as long as we get up, we’ll be okay!
6 The Harry Potter Trio – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint
I group these three into one when it comes to categorizing some of the most successful child stars because we grew up with all three of them. These three started the Harry Potter series before they were even teenagers. Dan was 12, Emma was 11, and Rupert was 13 (okay, one was a teenager), and after a span of 7 years, we’ve seen them grow up. Never once did we ever hear even a whisper of bad conduct, fame getting to their heads, or any of them rebelling. So yes, the Golden Trio will forever be loved, because we watched them all blossom flawlessly right before our eyes!
7 Shia LaBeouf
First off, I love Shia. I don’t know why there is always some kind of negativity around him. Sure he’s a little bit of a bad boy, sure he’s landed himself in the headlines a few times because of some drunken nights at a club, but can you blame the guy? He’s out having some fun! In my eyes, it’s completely deserved, because he is superbly talented, funny to boot, and if you ever listen to his interviews, he is honest to a fault. Some people may take that the wrong way. But when you have a successful film franchise under your belt, then get to be in both Indiana Jones AND Wall Street, you deserve to be called one of the most successful child stars in the business.
8 Kristen Stewart
Now I know K.Stew becomes a topic of controversy whenever she’s brought up. Some say she can’t act, some say she never smiles (although I beg to differ), but you cannot deny that she is a powerhouse. Twilight became a cultural phenomenon, and none of it would have been possible without the girl who played Bella Swan. She’s been working since she was 11 years old, 11! Along the way she’s worked with some of the most talented people in Hollywood, everyone from Jodie Foster to Dakota Fanning to Glenn Close (that collaboration is coming in 2014). So based on merit alone, she’s one of the most successful child stars to come out of Hollywood.
9 Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst had her first kiss with Brad Pitt. That’s right, Brad Pitt. How lucky is she? To me, Kristen is one of those actresses who has done so much that we often forget that she was a child star. Kristen has done countless movies. We loved her in Bring It On (really, who doesn’t love that movie?), watched her steal Spider-Man’s heart as Mary Jane, and then got swept up in all her fabulousness when she played Marie Antoinette. Her range is impeccable, and there is no denying that she’s incredibly talented. Plus she’s become a bit of a fashion icon. All that put together definitely makes her one of the most successful child stars in Hollywood.
10 Neil Patrick Harris
NPH is legen… Wait for it … dary. Legendary. He’s also one of the most successful child stars, ever. He was famous for being a young child doctor, then he grew up and became the womanizer Barney Stinson that we all love in How I Met Your Mother. Somewhere in between he’s hosted the Emmy’s, got married, guest starred on Glee, played himself in the Harold and Kumar movies, and once again became a household name. All the while without having to go through any embarrassing front-page stories. All those child actors out there should ask themselves one thing when stuck in a career crisis – what would NPH do? Because whatever he did, it clearly worked for him!
11 Anna Paquin
Anna is so talented that she is the youngest actor in history to win an Oscar. She was 11 years old when she picked up a golden statue for her role in The Piano. Now, decades later, she’s once again charming her way into our hearts by playing Sookie in True Blood. Not only does she get to go to work everyday and act with some of the most gorgeous men on television, she’s also married to one of them. Plus she’s also Canadian and played Rogue in X-Men, which makes her even 10 times cooler in my book. So while she’s not busy being one of the most successful child stars, she’s probably at home playing with her pets, getting snuggly with Stephen Moyer, and occasionally speaking French just because she can.
There are so many wonderful child actors out there that are beyond successful, and wonderful role models! Every time I hear someone say that child stars are doomed in Hollywood, I always think of the people on this list and tell them differently. These people are all living proof that with a good head on your shoulders, you won’t fall into the Hollywood trap of being a washed up child star. So tell me, did I miss any of your favourite child actors?