Our culture has a fascination with child stars, and understandably so. They’re cute and precocious they can be prompted to recite hilarious lines. However, as it has often been observed, accumulating accolades, money, and power at such a young age can often lead a child star down a disastrous path. There are some rare instances of kid stars who were able to make the transition into respected adult actors. Christian Bale impressed audiences in Empire of the Sun and Newsies before his grown up roles in movies like American Psycho, The Machinist and Batman; Natalie Portman played the precocious sidekick to an assassin in The Professional and featured in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace before her later starring roles in V for Vendetta and Black Swan. Kiefer Sutherland was in The Lost Boys and Stand by Me well before his tenure as terrorist fighter Agent Jack Bauer in the tv show 24 (also proving that you can get anywhere in LA in 20 minutes and that CIA agents never have to use the bathroom!). There’s the even smaller category of “comeback kid”- those rare child stars who overcame early adversity brought on by their success and became functional members of society. Drew Barrymore melted hearts in ET as a young child, had some reckless teenage years that involved substance abuse and managed to overcome all of those experiences to become a very well respected actress and producer. And perhaps the original child star, Shirley Temple, who died in 2014 at age 85, enjoyed a long happy life and a productive career as a United States ambassador after her time as a child star, acting in many films such as Wee Willie Winkie, Heidi, and Curly Top. There’s also a fair amount of child stars who fade into relative anonymity once those awkward teenage years hit. Has anyone seen that kid from Jerry Maguire recently? Or what about the pint-sized cutie from Love Actually?
Obscurity, though, is more desirable outcome than the path of the actors on this list. These are child stars who suffered as a result of their early on fame, with varyingly disastrous consequences…
5. Danny Bonaduce- The Partridge Family
Mischievous ginger Danny Bonaduce has the distinction of being the only star on our list who’s still alive. Bonaduce, 54, got his start on the hit TV show, The Partridge Family, which ran from 1970-1974. It depicted the adventures of a family band traveling around in a psychedelic school bus. Bonaduce would reportedly often show up to the set with mysterious bruises on his face (the result of an abusive father) and different cast members took turns taking the young actor home with them on weekends to shield him from further abuse.
After the show ended, Bonaduce did mostly radio work in the 1980s and 1990s, all the while abusing drugs. At one point, he reported he lived in his car. In 1990, he was busted for buying crack cocaine right before he was supposed to make an appearance for the D.A.R.E. anti-drug campaign. In 1991, Bonaduce made headlines when he was arrested for assaulting a transvestite prostitute that he mistakenly thought was a woman. Bonaduce, who has been to rehab three times, has also been married three times – the second time, he tied the knot while on a first blind date. Despite his tumultuous personal life, Bonaduce has not strayed from the limelight, taking part in reality shows like VH1’s Breaking Bonaduce and Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling so that the world could witness his fits of hulk-like rage.
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