It may come as a surprise just how long the stars on this list have been in the spotlight. Although you may be very familiar with those on this list, you may not have realized just how long they have been working towards their big break. It may seem that these stars just rose to fame overnight, as soon as they starred in a hit movie, but this is not the case. The stars on this list began their journey towards success when they were only children.
This list highlights how many years of work and dedication are required in order to become a star that people are familiar with. It is a lifelong pursuit and very often one must know from a young age that this is the path they wish to pursue. Many of those on this list are only praised for their most recognized work, few realize how long it took to get to this point. Another interesting point is just how seamlessly and smoothly these stars made the transition from child actors to adult actors. This list will reveal just how long your favorite stars have been around for and the manner in which their careers unfolded.
15. Michael Cera
Michael Cera made his movie debut when he was just 12 years old. However, the actor’s first significant role came two years later when he portrayed a young Chuck Barris in Confessions of Dangerous Mind. Cera’s career went on to be very successful from this point; he went on to star in the likes of Juno, Superbad, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist and Youth in Revolt. Despite this, it appears as if the actor’s high-point came in the early days of his career. Although Cera had many movie achievements throughout his teenage years and early 20s, these days the actor’s career has slowed down tremendously, almost coming to a complete standstill. The actor, unlike many others on the list, has not succeeded in transitioning very smoothly into an adult actor.
Not many realize that although Fergie has had a hugely successful music career, the singer actually made her first appearance in the spotlight not only singing but acting. When she was just nine years old, Fergie first appeared on the children’s TV Show Kids Incorporated. Considering musical performances were a major part of every episode, Fergie found her place perfectly on the show. After the show, Fergie went on to be a member of the girl group Wild Orchid. Despite the band’s success, the singer decided to leave the group. The following year, Fergie joined The Black Eyed Peas. With her addition The Black Eyed Peas gained worldwide recognition, becoming one of the biggest and most successful musical groups in the world. Fergie released her first solo album The Dutchess, in 2006; the album was a success featuring many hit songs. Fergie once again teamed up with her Black Eyed Peas bandmates in 2009, and since then the band has been continuing on their success. It appears the singer knew from a very young age, just what she was destined for.
13. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
When he was just a child, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was already busy with his acting career. Levitt appeared in movies such as A River Runs Through It and Angels in the Outfield, as well as the TV sitcom Third Rock From The Sun. The star followed this success into his teenage years when he appeared in the teen classic 10 Things I Hate About You. After this point, however, Levitt decided to take a break from the acting world to focus on his studies. Despite this, Levitt dropped out of Columbia University in 2004 to once again pursue his passion. This was a wise decision from Levitt as he went on to transition smoothly and successfully into an adult actor, appearing in famous movies such as 500 Days of Summer, Inception, 50/50, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises and many more. The actor’s career has shown no signs of slowing down, so it’s clear to see Levitt will be around for many more years to come.
12. Natasha Lyonne
This Orange is the New Black actress was first introduced to the world of showbiz when she was just six years old. Lyonne appeared in movies very early on in her life, such as Peewee’s Playhouse, Heartburn and Dennis the Menace. Lyonne has spoken out publicly about her parents’ decision to have her star in movies at such a young age, the actress remarked: “I didn’t have the best parents. I don’t think they are bad people. Even if they were ready for children, it’s kind of a wacky idea to put your child in business at six years old.” Despite this, Lyonne’s early appearances acted as a springboard to gain bigger roles such as in Everyone Says I love You, when she was 16. The actress went on to star in numerous movies including Slums of Beverly Hills, But I’m a cheerleader, Scary Movie 2 and Blade: Trinity. Lyonne can currently be found starring as Nicky Nichols in the hit Netflix series, OITNB.
11. Christian Bale
Christian Bale gained his first acting role when he was just 13 years old when he appeared in Empire of the Sun. The movie was directed by Steven Spielberg and showcased Bale’s tremendous talent, even at such a young age. Bale’s performance was met with great acclaim due to the subject matter of the movie; the actor played a young English boy who is accidentally separated from his parents during WWII, becoming trapped in a Japanese Internment Camp. Bale went on to be have a successful career; in 2000, he gained the approval of critics due to his role in American Psycho, in which he portrayed serial killer, Patrick Bateman. More of the actor’s movie achievements include Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. In 2010 Bale won an Oscar for his supporting role in The Fighter.
10. Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl rose to prominence due to her role as Izzy Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy. However, the actress had actually been around many years before she reached her big break. Heigl secured her first movie role in That Night (1992) when she was just 14 years old. The actress was also a series regular on the alien drama Roswell, and appeared in another movie, My Father, My Hero. So despite the dip in Heigl’s career these days, the actress has technically been in the business for 23 years. While Heigl’s career was at its peak during her time on Grey’s Anatomy, she could be found starring in movies such as 27 dresses, Knocked Up and The Ugly Truth. Heigl’s career is definitely reached a lull at this point in time, though; the actress made the mistake of insulting Grey’s Anatomy producers. After winning an Emmy Award for her acting performance in 2007, Heigl was nominated once again the following year; controversially the actress withdrew her name on the grounds that she didn’t believe her part that season warranted a nomination. Not that surprisingly, Heigl was written out of the show the following season and her career has yet to recover
9. Shailene Woodley
Around 2014, Shailene Woodley seemed to appear out of thin air to star in every anticipated movie of this time such as The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series. Nevertheless, the actress had actually been in the industry for many years already. Woodley made her first acting appearance when she was just 10 years old in a minor TV role. In 2004, the actress earned a leading role in the TV show A Place Called Home. Along with this, The O.C. fans may recognize Woodley as having played a young Kaitlin Cooper on the show. Woodley’s breakthrough role was as Amy Juergens in the teen series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. The actress gained critical renown for her part in the 2011 movie The Descendants, which starred George Clooney. Woodley’s career is showing no signs of stopping; The actress is currently working on upcoming projects, such as the movie Snowden and the HBO mini-series Big Little Lies.
8. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix, alongside his brother River Phoenix, began appearing in TV shows such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, when he was just 8 years old. During his years of being a child-star the actor went by the self-given name of Leaf Phoenix. Phoenix made his first movie appearance with 1986’s Spacecamp, when he was 12 years old. The actor’s first starring roles were in Russkies (1987) and Parenthood (1989). After the passing of his brother River, in 1993, the actor disappeared from the spotlight for a year. When Phoenix returned, so too did his real name, Joaquin. The actor began to take on more serious, dark roles such as To Die For, U-Turn, Clay Pigeons and 8mm. Phoenix played the part of the villain in Gladiator (2000) which starred Russel Crowe, and was both a huge critical and financial success. In 2005, the actor was once again met with praise from critics for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Cash himself approved Phoenix to play the part. The film was met with rave reviews making it an all-round success. To date the actor has won a Grammy Award, a Golden Globe, and was nominated for three Oscars.
7. Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris, is undoubtedly, most recognized for his portrayal of Barney Stinson in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. However, despite how it may appear, Harris’ success did not just happen overnight. In fact, the actor has been around since he was just a child. The star was discovered at a drama camp by playwright Mark Medoff, who later cast Harris in the movie Clara’s Heart; the movie was released in 1988 and starred Whoopi Goldberg. Harris received a Golden Globe nomination for his part in the movie. Afterwards, his TV show, Doogie Howser MD, ran from 1989-93. The star’s first adult role was 1995’s Animal Room. Later, Harris went on to appear in three of the Harold and Kumar comedy movies. More recently Harris appeared in 2014’s Gone Girl, which starred Ben Affleck. Apart from his movie and TV success, Harris is also praised for his work on Broadway, in which he has taken on both musical and acting roles.
6. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman secured her first movie role in Léon: The Professional, when she was just 13 years old. From here the actress was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars Trilogy. Portman appeared in all three movies released in 1999, 2002 and 2005. In fact, Portman was still in high school at the time the first movie was released. The actress first met critical praise in 2004 when she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Closer. Portman is also praised for her leading performances in V for Vendetta (2006), Goya’s Ghost (2006) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). In 2010, Portman won The Best Actress Oscar for psychological, ballet-thriller Black Swan. More recently, Portman has starred in Thor (2011) and its sequel, which was released in 2013.
5. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal is the son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, so this explains how the star got into acting at such a young age. Gyllenhaal appeared in City Slickers (1991) when he was just 11 years old. The star went on to appear in bigger movies such as A Dangerous Woman, when he was 13, and Homegrown when he was 18. Having such an impressive record to his name, at such a young age, definitely helped the actor secure the starring role in his breakout movie October Sky, released in 1999. From here, Gyllenhaal starred in indie horror Donnie Darko, which made audiences really pay attention. The actor has since starred in a number of huge movie hits, such as Zodiac (2007), Brothers (2009), Love and Other Drugs (2010) and Prisoners (2013). The actor still remains one of Hollywood’s leading men. With a career that has already spanned a couple of decades, it’s clear Gyllenhaal will be around for many more years to come.
4. Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds joined the acting world when he was just 15 years old after he starred in the Canadian teen soap, Hillside. Moving on from this, Reynolds starred opposite Melissa Joan Hart in the TV movie Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Reynolds went on to star in the American Television series Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place. In the 2000s the actor began to have success with movies like Just Friends, Definitely Maybe, Blade: Trinity, The Amityville Horror and The Proposal. Earlier this year, the actor’s role in Deadpool was met with rave reviews from both critics and audiences alike. Reynolds is currently working on the science fiction thriller Life, set for release in 2017.
3. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson was just 10 years old when she first appeared on movie screens for her role in North. The actress’ breakthrough role came when Johansson was 14, after she starred in The Horse Whisperer, a movie that was met with critical renown. The actress was successful in transitioning into more adult orientated roles, something so many other child stars have struggled with. In the 2000s, Johansson could be found starring in movies such as Girl with a Pearl Earring, Lost in Translation, The Prestige and The Other Boleyn Girl. The actress still remains as successful as ever with recent movie hits such as Lucy. At this point, Johansson has been in the business for 21 years, and shows no signs of slowing down. The actress is commonly considered one of Hollywood’s biggest sex symbols. As of July this year, Johansson is the highest grossing movie actress of all time, as her movies have made over $3.3 billion dollars.
2. Jennifer Lawrence
Most of us became familiar with Jennifer Lawrence after she was cast as Katniss Everdeen in the renowned Hunger Games franchise. Or perhaps a few more dedicated fans had been familiar with some of the actress’ earlier works, such as Winter’s Bone (2010). So, although it may appear as though the actress catapulted to fame overnight, this is not the case at all. The actress has been a part of the acting scene a lot longer than you may have realized. The star was first spotted by a talent scout when she was just 14. From here Lawrence went on to be a series regular on the sitcom The Bill Engvall Show. The actress’ first movie appearance came in 2008 when she played a supporting role in Garden Party. These days, Lawrence is one of the highest paid and most sought after stars in Hollywood. Lawrence became the second youngest actress to win a Best Actress Oscar in 2012, for her starring role in Silver Lining’s Playbook.
1. Ryan Gosling
You may not believe it, but this Hollywood heartthrob began his rise to fame when he was just twelve years old, after auditioning for a part on Disney Channel’s The Mickey Mouse Club. Yes, that is the same Mickey Mouse Club that featured a number of other future superstars, including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. With a list of stars like that it’s clear the show succeeded in launching the careers of many young stars. After his time on the show, Gosling went on the star in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, when he was 17. However, Gosling reached his big break in 2001, when he starred in his first feature film The Believer, which acted as a platform to many bigger roles, such as The Notebook (2004), Stay (2005) and Half Nelson (2006). These days, Gosling is a household name and is commonly considered one of Hollywood’s biggest stars; the actor seems to be appearing in one successful movie after another. It’s clear his career has spanned a long way since his early days of being a child star on The Mickey Mouse Club.