Child stars are usually outgoing, precocious, sometimes even truly talented and driven. One would think the natural progression is to become successful adults. However all that goes out the window without the proper support and guidance needed to keep them grounded and sane. Sadly some child stars lose themselves along the way to fame. While some take their earnings and leave Hollywood to lead normal low profile lives.
For all the Amanda Bynes like situations, there are also those like the late Shirley Temple Black. She was the biggest little star of the Depression era, had dolls and drinks named after her, and yet Shirley managed to escape the pitfalls of child stardom to live a productive life with charm, wit and grace. Many obviously with the proper guidance do in fact succeed at handling stardom, managing to grow into normal, productive adults. Some young stars move on to different lines of work as some grow into fine adult actors. So here is a look at ten child stars who did what most of us do; they grew up took responsibility for themselves and became adults. You will recognize them all, either from their past child stardom or present successful careers.
10. Jay North
Jay North was chosen for his role on television as, “Dennis the Menace” by the cartoon character’s creator, Hank Ketcham, out of 500 children who auditioned. North played the role from 1959 to 1963. He later appeared in several movies as a teen and young adult. Like many child stars he was always type cast as Dennis. North worked as a prison guard in Florida for many years and now is a corrections officer in Lake Butler, Florida where he has lived since 1989. North helped create, “A Minor Consideration” a non- profit organization to help child stars where he also donates his time working with young actors.
9. Elijah Wood
Elijah Wood made his film debut with a minor part in, “Back to the Future Part II” in 1989, and then landed a succession of larger roles that made him a critically acclaimed child actor by age 9 and he was nominated for several Young Artist Awards as a result. Wood starred in the films, “Radio Flyer” in 1992, “The Good Son” in 1993, and “North” in 1994. He is best known for leading role as Frodo Baggins in, “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy 2001–2003. Wood also provided the voices of the main character in the award-winning animated musical films, ”Happy Feet” and “Happy Feet Two”. In 2005, he started his own record label, Simian Records. Since 2011, he has been playing the role of Ryan Newman in FX’s dark comedy “Wilfred”.
8. Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert began acting as a child in the late 1960s, appearing in numerous commercials and guest roles on television. Her breakthrough role came in 1974 when she was chosen to play Laura Ingalls Wilder on the television series, “Little House on the Prairie”. She appeared in several successful television movies, including, “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Miracle Worker”. She continues to work in television films and guesting on series’. Gilbert has also has done voice work for “Batman”, the animated series. She served as the President of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005. She wrote and published her autobiography, “Prairie Tale: A Memoir in 2009.
7. Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart got her first major role at age 12, when she played Jodie Foster’s daughter in, “Panic Room”. She also played a small part in Sean Penn’s film, “Into The Wild”. Stewart became a star with her role as Bella Swan in the 2008 film, “Twilight”. Her father is a television producer and her mother is a script supervisor so perhaps their Hollywood experience is responsible for her grounded attitude. Unlike other female stars her age, Stewart is not likely to be seen stumbling out of bars or clubs late at night.
6. Jerry Mathers
Jerry Mathers is known for his role as Theodore (Beaver) Cleaver in the classic television series, “Leave It To Beaver” from 1957 to 1963, and “The New Leave It To Beaver” from 1983 to 1989. He won his role as the Beaver by admitting he’d rather be at his Cub Scout meeting than auditioning for the show. The producers chose him because they wanted a boy with a “real boy” attitude. Mathers later toured with his television brother, Tony Dow, in the 1980s stage productions of “Boeing, Boeing” and “So Long, Stanley”. He served in the Air Force National Guard during the Vietnam War. Mathers earned his BA in Philosophy and then worked in banking and real estate in 1970s. He owned and operated a catering company in California which he called, “Cleaver’s Catering and used his “Beaver” photo for it. The studio that had produced the show sued him for using it. The court ruled in his favor saying the studio did not own the image of Jerry’s face.
5. Scott Baio
Scott Baio decided he wanted to be an actor at the age of nine. Soon after his parents took Scott on interviews and he landed some small roles in commercials. His first true success came when Baio beat out 2000 other child actors for the starring role in the gangster film, “Bugsy Malone” in 1976. The following year he was chosen to play the role of Chachi Arcola, The Fonz’s cousin on the ABC sitcom, “Happy Days” and Baio’s popularity was a lock. His family moved to Hollywood and he did the series through to 1984. During those years Baio appeared in several films, including, “Skatetown U.S.A” in 1979, “Foxes” in 1980, and “Zapped!” in 1982. The “Happy Days” tv show spin-off, “Joanie Loves Chachi” came in 1982 and all this exposure helped Baio to become a major teen idol in the early 1980s. In 1984 Baio was given the starring role in the television sitcom, “Charles In Charge” He has done many television guest shots as well as another show about his life on VH1 called “Scott Baio is 45…And Single” in 2007 which dealt with his penchant for dating and yet still not being married, exploring the reasons why. In real life, Baio is married and has a daughter.
4. Reese Witherspoon
She began modeling at the age of 7. In 1990 at age 15, Reese Witherspoon got her first feature role in, “The Man in the Moon”. Her other roles which brought her to prominence were in the films, “Pleasantville” in 1998 and “Cruel Intentions” in 1999. Her breakthrough role came as Elle Woods in the 2001 comedy, “Legally Blonde” which was a huge box-office smash and established Witherspoon as one of the top female actresses in Hollywood. In 2006 she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash bio film, “Walk the Line”. She was married to actor, Ryan Phillippe for seven years and had two children with him, daughter Ava and son Deacon. While they divorced in 2006 it was amicable and the two share joint custody of their children.
3. Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster began acting in commercials at the age of 3, most notably for Coppertone sunblock. At age 5, she was chosen for a role on the television show, “Mayberry R.F.D. in 1968. She stayed a very busy child actress, working in television on such shows as, “The Doris Day Show” in 1968, “Adam-12” also 1968, “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” in 1969, and “The Partridge Family” in 1970. Foster did numerous film roles during this time, but it was her role as a prostitute in “Taxi Driver” in 1976 at age 12 that brought her stardom. She received her first Oscar nomination for this, as Best Supporting Actress. Foster made several successful films before opting to put her career on hold to attend Yale University in 1980. However tragedy struck in her Freshman year, when a crazed fan named John Hinckley shot then President Ronald Reagan to impress Foster.
She graduated from Yale in 1985 with a degree in literature and her main priority was to become a successful adult actress, which she most certainly has accomplished, with roles like Sarah Tobias in “The Accused” in 1988, which earned her an Oscar as Best Actress and as Clarice Starling an FBI trainee hunting down a serial killer in “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1991 for which she got her second Oscar (as Best Actress) and establishing her as an international star at the age of 28.
2. Ron Howard
Ron Howard came to prominence playing Opie Taylor for eight years in the memorable television series, “The Andy Griffith Show”. Later he was a hit as Richie Cunningham in the hugely successful television sitcom, “Happy Days” which Howard was on for six years. He appeared in the films, “The Music Man” in 1962, “American Graffiti” in 1973 and “The Shootist” in 1976. Howard made his directorial debut with the 1977 comedy, “Grand Theft Auto” and left “Happy Days” to focus on directing. Howard’s directorial body of work includes the films, “Cocoon”, “Apollo 13”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “A Beautiful Mind”, for which Howard received an Oscar for Best Director. Howard created and produces the Fox/Netflix series, “Arrested Development” which he narrates and also plays a semi-fictionalized characterization of himself. In 2003 Ron Howard received the National Medal of the Arts. Finally, in 2013 he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio has been acting since he was a young teenager. He started his career by appearing in television commercials prior to landing recurring roles in television series such as the soap opera “Santa Barbara” and the sitcom “Growing Pains” in the early 1990s. He made his film debut in the film “Critters 3” in 1991. DiCaprio really became noticed when he starred in the films, “This Boy’s Life” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” before becoming a household name for his role as Jack Dawson in, “Titanic”. He has been nominated for numerous prestigious awards in his chosen field. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Drama for ”The Aviator” in 2004 and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for “The Wolf of Wall Street” in 2013. He has become a favorite actor for many top directors and has appeared in a number of notable films including, “Gangs of New York”, “Catch Me If You Can”, “The Departed” and “Revolutionary Road”. He is also a well-known advocate for various environmental organizations. DiCaprio funded, wrote and narrated the documentary, “The 11th Hour” about the effect humans are having on the planet.