Child stars are known for being adorable. Whether they are huge household names like the Olsen twins, or just had a big role or two before disappearing into obscurity, people love to find out what the cute kids from their favourite TV shows and movies look like now.
Some child stars go on to become A-list celebrities, and have a long successful career in the entertainment business. Some stars, like Emma Watson, seem to have no trouble transitioning to more adult roles, while others, like Lindsay Lohan, struggle every step of the way to stay in the spotlight for something other than multiple DUIs. Since we watched both of them grow up in the spotlight, we know exactly what they look like now, and it’s not that different from what could be expected.
The child actors who weren’t necessarily household names are the ones that we really want to see now. Some of them have continued to act, but some decided to leave show business altogether, and have a normal life. But somehow they end up getting tracked down at some point if only because people are curious about what they’re up to. Here are 16 child actors you’d never recognize if you passed them on the street.
16. Matthew Lewis
Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series was always a goofy looking, awkward kid. Played by Matthew Lewis, no one ever really looked twice at him. Until he went through puberty, got his teeth fixed, and started dressing like an adult. BuzzFeed even coined a term for how drastically he changed for the better– “Neville Longbottoming”. He recently graced the cover of the UK’s Attitude Magazine, and is still working in film. How could he not, with a body like that?
15. Jason James Richter
You may recognize Jason James Richter as Jesse, the troubled kid who helped set a killer whale free in Free Willy and its two sequels. He did a couple other movies when he was a teenager, but decided to make the switch to music where he played bass for the band, Fermata. He may be coming back to acting now though since he’s had some guest-starring roles lately in Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour, and Bones.
14. Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson played the title role in Matilda, and was the youngest (and cutest) of Robin Williams’ three kids in Mrs. Doubtfire. Now she regularly blogs at Mara Wilson Writes, and she wrote one post called “7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy” about her experience in Hollywood as a child actor. She also landed a book deal with Penguin to publish a book of essays about what it was like being a child actor in an adult’s world.
13. Bradley Pierce
Jumanji is a Robin Williams classic, but remember the little boy who starts to turn into a monkey when he gets an unlucky roll? That kid was played by Bradley Pierce, and he also voiced the character of Chip in Disney’s original animated Beauty and the Beast. Most of his acting work was left in his childhood though, and now he’s working on making his own short films.
12. Nicholas Hoult
You probably know Nicholas Hoult today as Jennifer Lawrence‘s on-again, off-again boyfriend, and from movies like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Mad Max: Fury Road. But did you know that he was also the kid from About a Boy? He also appeared in the critically acclaimed UK series Skins, before making the jump to Hollywood. Seems like he’s made the transition to A-lister pretty seamlessly, and if J-Law likes him, then he must be pretty cool.
11. Keisha Castle-Hughes
If you’ve been paying attention, you might have seen Keisha Castle-Hughes on the latest season of Game of Thrones as Obara Sand. In 2004, she was the youngest person to ever have been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Whale Rider. She hasn’t had a lot of high profile roles in between the two, but everything she’s done has been critically acclaimed.
10. Peter Billingsley
It’s hard to forget one of the most popular holiday movies of all time, A Christmas Story, since it’s on TV every December. Peter Billingsley played main character, Ralphie, the kid who shoots himself in the face with the pellet gun he begged to get as a gift after being told numerous times that he’d shoot his eye out. Billingsley is all grown up now, and barely recognizable, besides those blue eyes.
9. Haley Joel Osment
You know Haley Joel Osment as the kid who saw dead people in The Sixth Sense. After that he starred in Pay It Forward, and then kind of disappeared. He makes a guest appearance in this month’s Entourage movie, and he’s barely recognizable. He’s still acting, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, so he hasn’t disappeared from Hollywood completely.
8. Benjamin Salisbury
Benjamin Salisbury played the role of Brighton Sheffield on The Nanny from 1993 to 1999. He was also a skilled dancer and would treat the studio audience to improvised routines during tapings of the show. He appeared on a special episode of Teen Celebrity Jeopardy and beat Kirsten Dunst and Joseph Gordon Levitt to win $15,000 for his charity of choice. According to IMDb, he hasn’t recorded an acting credit since 2006.
7. Clint Howard
The younger brother of director Ron Howard, Clint Howard, appeared on The Andy Griffith Show, Star Trek, and various other TV shows when he was a kid. He’s still a working actor today, and you might remember him from the Austin Powers franchise, and Night at the Museum, and Frost/Nixon. In 1998, he even won MTV’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
6. Vincent Larusso
One of the stars of The Mighty Ducks franchise, Vincent Larusso, decided to leave acting behind once he was done with the series. He was set on properly finishing school and made it a top priority. He graduated from the Boston University School of Management. He’s had a few tiny parts in movies like Superhero Movie, but has generally preferred to stay out of the spotlight.
5. Edward Furlong
As a teenager, Edward Furlong won Young Artist awards for his performances in movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and American Heart. Most recently he had a role in The Green Hornet opposite Seth Rogen. Throughout his career he has struggled with substance abuse issues, and been arrested on domestic abuse charges multiple times. Surely if Furlong decided to clean up his act he could get his career back on track.
4. Brian Bonsall
Brian Bonsall is best known for his starring role in Blank Check where he played a kid who finds a blank check, cashes it for a million dollars, and goes on a spending spree. He also played the role of Andy Keaton on Family Ties and Alexander Rozhenko on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He retired from acting in 1995, and turned to music. He is currently working on solo projects, and has expressed that he has no interest to ever return to acting.
3. Jonathan Lipnicki
Jonathan Lipnicki was one of the most recognizable child stars thanks to his role opposite Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. Now, Jonathan is all grown up and in fantastic shape because he trains in marital arts. He has mentioned that he might be interested in fighting professionally, but hasn’t had enough time to devote to training. He recently appeared in an Audi commercial as a “pool boy”.
2. Austin St. John
Austin St. John is known for playing the original Red Power Ranger, Jason Lee Scott on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He also holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. His acting career has revolved around Power Rangers, and he also spent some time working as an emergency medical technician and firefighter. He’s set to return to acting with a role in the upcoming post-apocalyptic thriller, Survival’s End.
1. Josh Byrne
Josh Byrne played the role of Brenden Lambert on Step By Step from 1991 to 1997. He also played a 6-year-old version of Billy Crystal‘s character in Mr. Saturday Night. Since then, he hasn’t done anything in the entertainment world, and has dropped right out of the spotlight. Even so, most people probably walk right past him everyday without recognizing him because he looks very different from the little guy we saw on the big screen.