Most child stars don’t continue in Hollywood after passing the threshold of puberty. In fact, we remember many young actors for their brief moment in the sun—a single role or perhaps an appearance in one nostalgic film. Here are some familiar faces from the past. Where are they now? Are they thriving adult actors? Or did Hollywood chew them up and spit them back out.
Jodie Sweetin: Turning It Around
Full House just wouldn’t have been the same without Jodie Sweetin—but few know how dark her history actually is. She had a tumultuous start in life. With both of her parents locked up behind bars, little Jodie had to find a new family. Her aunt and uncle adopted her and, when she was only five, she began working on Full House. Her time on the show was smooth-sailing, but when the show wrapped after eight seasons, that’s when the trouble began.
Not long after saying goodbye to the only life she’d ever known, 14-year-old Jodie began drinking. Sadly, this opened her up to the world of addiction. Before long, the teenager had begun experimenting with illicit substances. And once she started, she just couldn’t stop. Later, Jodie admitted that these addictions began because she felt “bored.” It seemed like a tale as old as time: a child actor falling off the rails. But luckily, there’s a twist to this story.
Before her addictions could consume her completely, Jodie Sweetin decided to work towards sobriety. By 2008, she was in the clear, and from then on, she decided to dedicate her career to helping others recover from addiction. She found a job at an LA rehab center, working as a clinical logistics coordinator—and even went to school to become a counselor.
Macaulay Culkin: A Tragic Home Life
Macaulay Culin was the child actor of the 90s. His role in the Home Alone films, as well as his devastating performance in My Girl, made him a household name. One simply can’t survive the Christmas season without seeing his face everywhere. Culkin seemed like he was going to grow up into a Hollywood star, but sadly, his life morphed into a disturbing rollercoaster.
To begin with, Culkin’s home life was a mess. His father, Kit Culkin, was an angry and jealous man, and Culkin later admitted where this resentment stemmed from: “everything he tried to do in his life I excelled at before I was 10 years old.” To make matters worse, his parents also had control of his hefty trust fund. This is where his family ties truly began to fray.
Macaulay Culkin became estranged from his father after he took both parents to court and had their names removed from his trust fund. It was a deep cut for Macaulay, but even greater tragedies awaited him. In 2000, Culkin’s half-sister, Jennifer Adamson lost her life to an overdose. Eight years later, a car hit his other sister, Dakota. She, too, did not survive. But these heartbreaking losses were only compounded with Culkin’s other dangerous demons.
Behind the scenes, Culkin struggled terribly with addiction and even spent some time behind bars. Physically, his appearance began to worry fans. The once adorable child looked unrecognizable. His adult years certainly weren’t treating him with kindness, and the emaciated actor looked worrisomely unhealthy. Luckily, Culkin’s story does have a happy ending.
Despite his bumpy road into adolescence, Macaulay Culkin has pulled through the worst of it. These days, he’s looking much healthier and happier. In 2018, he met the love of his life, Brenda Song—his co-star on Changeland. The happy couple welcomed their first child in 2021, a daughter named after Culkin’s late sister, Dakota Song Culkin.
Taylor Momsen: Good Girl Turned Rock Star
Taylor Momsen is another child actor that defines the holiday season—and her role as Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas still warms our hearts every year. But, unlike some of our other child stars, Momsen wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Once she grew into her teen years, she graced the screen as Jenny Humphrey in Gossip Girl. These days, however, Momsen has shed her good-girl persona entirely.
After acting for most of her childhood and teen years, Momsen decided that she wanted to pursue music instead, saying “music is where I can be me.” In 2009, she stepped out as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the rock band, The Pretty Reckless. She also embraced a brand new image—all-black outfits all the time and dramatic, coal-rimmed eyes.
Since then, her band has enjoyed great success. They released their latest album, Death by Rock and Roll in February 2021.
Angus T. Jones: He Hated His Sitcom
Angus T. Jones infamously played Jake Harper on one of America’s most popular sitcoms, Two and a Half Men. By 2010, he had an unbelievable salary of $300,000 per episode. However, behind the scenes, Jones wasn’t so happy with his acting career. In fact, things took a turn for the scandalous when Jones discovered his religion.
In November 2012, Jones hit his breaking point. Newly baptized, he felt that his profession conflicted with his faith. Even more shocking? He didn’t want to appear on Two and a Half Men anymore. Jones spewed his judgment readily, calling the show “filth” and telling audiences that they should cease tuning in. Moreover, he did not leave on good terms.
When he made his official departure he called himself a “paid hypocrite,” and just turned his back on the whole debacle. So what is this angry child actor doing now? Well, after leaving the show, Jones made a wise choice and focussed on his education, attending the University of Colorado Boulder. In 2016, he started working for a multimedia and event production company called Tonite. As part of the management team, Jones is taking the high road—running as from the sitcom world as possible.
Jaimee Foxworth: She Didn’t Matter To Them
Jaimee Foxworth started out young. When she was only five years old, she started modeling, which eventually led to advertisements. This early exposure won her her most notable role as Judy Winslow on Family Matters. But sadly, in the fourth season, the studio decided to ruthlessly cut her character out of the show. In fact, the script offered no explanation for her random disappearance.
With Jaimee gone, the popular character of Steve Urkel rose to prominence. Budget cuts were required and poor Jamie was just collateral damage. This decision left Jaimee completely blindsided. She later said, “They figured they could just throw me away, no explanation at all. Some of my cast members knew before I did.” Sadly, the loss of this role did not bode well for the young actress.
After a failed attempt at starting a girl band, Jaimee decided to try something new. From 2000 to 2002, she worked in the adult film industry under the pseudonym Crave. But that wasn’t the only shocking aspect of Jaimee’s life. You see, she also struggled with depression and addiction. Life after Family Matters was more trying than she ever thought it would be.
Liesel Pritzker: A Real-Life Princess
Liesel Pritzker is best known for her roles in A Little Princess and Air Force One—but her time in Hollywood didn’t go far beyond that. No need to worry though, as the heiress to the Hyatt fortune, money was never really a concern for little Leisel. In fact, being a part of a millionaire family churned out all the drama she ever needed.
Turns out, Leisl’s own family had misappropriated money from her trust funds. Going into full defense mode, the retired child actress filed a six billion dollar lawsuit against her father and 11 cousins. The payoff was huge. Thankfully, Leisl is dedicated to giving back. Today, she is an American philanthropist responsible for founding a microfinance support group.
Gary Coleman: A Fatal Fall
Gary Coleman is considered one of the greatest child actors of all time—but he was doomed to a horrifying end. Coleman rose to stardom after landing the role of Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes. Through the late 70s and 80s, he was the highest-paid adolescent on television. But despite raking in the cash, Coleman had some serious financial struggles.
In 1989, Coleman went after his parents and business adviser for misappropriating his assets. He sued them and won. But shockingly, only a decade later, the actor was bankrupt. Still, that wasn’t the most distressing part. Behind closed doors, Coleman also faced medical problems. He had an ongoing battle with his growth deficiency, addiction problems, and depression. It was a dangerous cocktail of issues that sent Coleman down a dangerous path.
On top of his inner demons, Coleman’s personal life was a downright mess. He frequently found himself in trouble with the authorities for his aggression and domestic disputes. Both outwardly and inwardly, the actor spiraled out of control, his health nosediving as his reputation faltered. And then it all came to the most disturbing climax.
On May 26, 2010, Coleman fell down a flight of stairs at his home. He hit his head so hard, he suffered an epidural hematoma. Although he seemed lucid the next morning, he declined rapidly. Only two days after his fall, the actor succumbed to his injuries. Sadder still? His will read, “…that there be no funeral service, wake, or other ceremony memorializing my passing.”
Jeff Cohen: Finding His True Calling
Perhaps one of the most lovable characters from The Goonies was Chunk—the jokester who stole many of the scenes with effortless comedy. This talented young actor was Jeff Cohen, and he certainly went to extremes to ensure that he didn’t lose out on the role of Chunk. Right before The Goonies began filming, Cohen made a horrifying discovery.
He’d contracted chickenpox. Terrified that they’d give the part to someone else, Cohen lied about being sick and showed up to set anyway. In the infamous “Truffle Shuffle” scene, viewers can see those tell-tale dots on Cohen’s chest. But despite his wonderful performance, acting didn’t become Cohen’s main focus. During filming, he fostered a close relationship with director Richard Donner, who helped him find his true calling.
Thanks to introductions made by his old Goonies director, Jeff Cohen snagged summer jobs that focussed more on the business aspects of the studio world. When he discovered that most high-ranking figures in Hollywood had law degrees, he set his sights on a shimmering new goal: a legal career. And boy, was he successful. Today, Cohen is an entertainment lawyer in LA and even co-founded his own firm in Beverly Hills. Through it all, he had one stalwart fan, cheering him on.
Director Richard Donner only has good things to say about the child actor turned lawyer. He told Variety, “His acting had an incredible sense of genuineness, of reality. He was Jeff — he drew from himself, and I think that’s who he is now. He’s honest and straight. I think that was in his acting and now in his law practice.”
Mike Vitar: Fighting More Than Just Fire
Michael Vitar was the fearless leader, “Benny the Jet” Rodriguez, in the feel-good film The Sandlot—but that’s where his acting career peaked. He quit Hollywood, finished his education, and today, he’s a firefighter for the Los Angeles Fire Department. However, in 2015, Vitar started making headlines again—and for one disturbing reason.
Vitar got himself involved in a controversial situation when he and two fellow firefighters approached a 22-year-old named Samuel Chang. They believed Chang guilty of handing out laced candy to trick-or-treaters in their neighborhood. They chased the suspect, caught him, and held him down. But what Vitar did next was absolutely chilling.
Vitar continued to pin the man to the ground while another firefighter put his hands around Chang’s neck. That’s when Chang lost consciousness. Now it was panic time. They had to perform CPR and pray they hadn’t done him in. Paramedics arrived and Chang remained in hospital for weeks. Obviously, Vitar paid the price for his actions. He faced suspension without pay for six months—but eventually returned to his duties.
Joseph Mazello: Thank Goodness For Jurassic Park
Who can forget the impressive young actors in Jurassic Park? Joseph Mazello gained recognition after taking on a main role in the Steven Spielberg classic. This life-changing experience had a stunning ripple effect. Down the road, Spielburg wrote Mazello the letter of recognition that helped him get into the University of Southern California. However, his ties to Jurassic Park continued to reap many benefits…
Although Mazello only had a small role in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, his salary was enough to pay for his college tuition. He even joked that the money was a graduation present from Spielburg. Today, Mazello is still in show business. Most recently, he starred as the bassist, John Deacon, in 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Frankie Muniz: Racing Into New Adventures
Frankie Muniz was one of the most popular actors of the early 2000s and was even dubbed “one of Hollywood’s most bankable teens.” He rose to fame with his family sitcom Malcolm in the Middle and then continued making hit children’s movies like Big Fat Liar and Agent Cody Banks. He had a good run—but it wasn’t meant to last forever. These days, he’s doing something completely different.
Muniz went on to pursue one of his other passions: race car driving. Since discovering his need for speed, he’s been racing on and off for over a decade. But that’s not all. In 2018, he and his wife purchased Outrageous Olive Oils & Vinegars—a specialty store in Scottsdale, Arizona. For the next two years, they dedicated themselves to running the business…and then the 2020 pandemic hit.
Although the couple enjoyed steady sales, they decided to sell their store. You see, Muniz had another grand adventure to attend to: fatherhood.
Mara Wilson: A Hollywood Breakup
When she was only five years old, Mara Wilson saw her brother acting in commercials and realized she wanted to do the same thing. However, fate had another plan in mind for Mara. After doing a string of commercials, she got the chance of a lifetime: a part in the 1993 comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. The success of that film propelled her career forward—but the actress soon realized that Hollywood was a fickle business.
Although she’ll always be remembered for her role in Matilda, like most child stars, Mara’s moment in the sun was excruciatingly brief. As she grew older, the roles just weren’t rolling in. She later said, “I consider my relationship with acting in Hollywood as sort of a mutual breakup. Through puberty, Hollywood didn’t really want me anymore, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really want you, either.’”
Because of her disappointing acting prospects, Mara had no choice but to step away from the limelight. She dedicated her long 12-year hiatus to writing, and then, in 2012, returned to acting. Today, she mainly stars in web series or works in voice acting.
Peter Ostrum: A Different Golden Ticket
Peter Ostrum was only 12 years old when talent agents scooped him up for his one and only role as Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It was his first time on a movie set, and Peter only has fond members of his legendary screen partner, Gene Wilder. He later expressed how the older actor “treated people with respect and dignity.” When filming wrapped, the studio offered Peter an enticing three-year contract. But the young boy’s response was shocking.
Peter decided to turn down the film contract—and this decision caused his life to veer in a completely different direction. Not long after finishing his one film, he discovered his true calling. His family welcomed a horse into their lives, and the experience opened his eyes to the world of veterinary medicine. Although he toyed with the idea of returning to Hollywood, Peter ultimately chose to become a veterinarian.
Amy O’Neill: She Ran Away With The Circus
Amy O’Neill is most recognized for her role in the family comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, as well as her substantial run on The Young and the Restless. But despite having a strong start, her love for acting began to wane—and for one disturbing reason. She kept getting scripts that required her to take off her clothes. Nope. Amy wasn’t ready to go down that road, and so, she made a drastic decision.
Disgusted by disappointing roles, Amy decided to quit acting. However, it wasn’t the end of the road for her. She became enthralled by the circus and decided to pursue it. Luckily, the former actress found a home in LA’s performing arts community, and in 2002, she joined the Alabama trio, “Girls on Stilts.” Since then, Amy has toured all over the world.
Jonathan Ke Quan: The Comeback Kid
Jonathan Ke Quan had a childhood defined by terror and fame. In 1978, he and his family fled Vietnam as refugees, arriving in the US the following year. However, when he was 12 years old, fate dealt him another surprising hand. The casting director for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom auditioned children at his school, and he came out on top. All of a sudden, Jonathan found himself playing Harrison Ford’s sweet sidekick in a major motion picture.
After his massive debut, Jonathan went on to star in the beloved classic, The Goonies. Unfortunately, from then on, the child actor faced disappointment after disappointment. There just wasn’t enough opportunity for Asian Americans in Hollywood, and so, he walked away from it all. He thought that was the end of his acting career—but he was so, so wrong.
When Jonathan Ke Quan witnessed the success of 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, he felt bolstered by Asian representation. Inspired, he decided to give acting another shot. In 2020, he made his comeback by joining the cast of the science fiction film Everything Everywhere All at Once. What’s more? The actor shows no sign of slowing down. As announced in February 2022, he will also be a part of the TV adaptation of American Born Chinese for Disney+.
Haley Joel Osment: He’s Still Holding On
There’s no denying that, as a child, Haley Joel Osment stole the audience’s hearts. He was unbelievably adorable and tremendously talented. Although he started acting at the age of four, he truly catapulted into the public eye with his performance in The Sixth Sense. He was nominated for an Academy Award—and, since then, his iconic quote, “I see dead people,” is a catchphrase that everyone knows. So where did this beloved child actor disappear to?
To be honest, he didn’t really go anywhere. Osment just isn’t nailing the main roles like he used to. Instead, he has taken on supporting parts or minor characters in shows like Silicon Valley and The Boys. He also starred in the Netflix film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile in 2019. In the midst of his acting career, Osment also took time off to attend the Tisch School of the Arts, and today, he still resides in New York City.
Edward Furlong: Losing Himself Along The Way
The 90s were Edward Furlong’s playground, but most people remember him for his stunning debut performance as John Connor in Terminator: Judgment Day. It seemed like the young actor had a promising road ahead of him and, as he branched out, he even had the opportunity to star alongside heavy hitters like Meryl Streep and Edward Norton. But when the 2000s hit—his success imploded in the worst way possible.
Edward fell into a spiraling struggle with drug use. His first stint in rehab was in 2000 and, according to him, it was his addiction that lost him his role in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Oh, but the bad news doesn’t end there. Edward also had a habit of getting himself involved in horrifying domestic disputes. His relationships were downright messy and his aggression tainted his reputation. Surprisingly, there is a silver lining for this down-and-out actor.
Today, Edward is working toward rehabilitation, even starting a podcast called American Glutton where he openly discusses his recovery from addiction and compulsive eating.
Jake Lloyd: The Dark Side Of Being A Child Actor
When George Lucas announced The Phantom Menace in 1998, fans were ecstatic. The hype surrounding this film was unprecedented. There was also a new face in the mix—adorable child actor Jake Lloyd, who’d been cast as Anakin Skywalker. But sadly, after the film hit theaters, poor Jake learned the hard way that fame came at a high price.
You see, the press and his school classmates brutally harassed Jake for his performance in the Star Wars movie, and by 2001, he’d quit acting altogether. Sadly, even Star Wars star Mark Hamill recognized that Hollywood had done Jake dirty. “I couldn’t believe some of the things they wrote about the prequels, you know. I mean really, beyond I didn’t like it. I’m still angry about the way they treated Jake Lloyd.” Unfortunately, his story of woe doesn’t end there.
Since his claim to fame, Jake Lloyd has struggled with his mental health. Moreover, his schizophrenia and aggressive behavior have gotten him into trouble with the authorities. On one occasion, Jake initiated a high-speed police chase, which landed him behind bars and, eventually, saw him placed in a psychiatric facility. Today, he lives near his parents, seeking treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.
Amanda Bynes: An Unforgettable Fall From Grace
As the darling of the 2000s, Amanda Bynes seemed like she could do no wrong. With her natural talent for comedy, she made it big with The Amanda Show, and then went on to dominate teen romcoms throughout the decade. Bubbly and lovable, she shone in films like What a Girl Wants and She’s the Man. But it was all doomed to a heartbreaking end.
Sadly, Amanda’s struggles with her mental health cut her fame down at its knees. She began using many damaging substances and, most notably, became addicted to Adderall. Soon, the actress didn’t even seem like herself, her behavior becoming increasingly erratic. On one memorable occasion, she faced charges after allegedly starting a fire in a neighbor’s driveway. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.
Amanda shocked her fans when she took to Twitter to tweet out the most convoluted messages, accusing her parents of mistreating her. However, there was an explanation for her bizarre antics. Doctors diagnosed the actress with bipolar disorder. Since then, her parents have had conservatorship over her affairs. Luckily, this horror show had an end in sight.
For years, the tabloids have dragged poor Amanda through the mud, but these days, things are finally looking up. With the help of her family, she’s been able to stay sober and, as of 2022, has filed to end her conservatorship: “She believes her condition is improved and protection of the court is no longer necessary.”
Barret Oliver: A Shocking Transformation
Before landing the role as Bastian in 1984’s The NeverEnding Story, Barret Oliver had only had tiny roles in television and film. This was his big break…but it was also as big as he was ever going to get. Although he played a part in Tim Burton’s Frankweenie the following year, his career never really took off. You see, Oliver was destined to work with film—just a different kind of film…
Down the road, Oliver not only sported a shocking new look, but also a new profession. He realized that his true passion lay in print and photography, and today, he specializes in specific 19th-century processes. His work has been shown in museums, galleries, and films. But that’s not all. He also has a published book, A History of the Woodburytype.