Part of the reason why we love child actors so much is because they tend to quit the business. They say fame is fleeting, and with child stars, that’s most evident. People might think this is about failure, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Children leave the industry for a number of reasons. While a one-hit wonder of any size and shape is interesting, a child star one-hit wonder left the industry with their entire life ahead of them. If they left acting after one big movie, what did they do after that? Where did they go? What do they look like now? The massive changes in their lives between then and now make them much more interesting than most.
That’s what this list is about. Child stars who had one big hit and then left the industry, or at least left the spotlight. We’ve all seen similar lists that include actors who were side characters in middling films or, even worse, lists that include stars like Macauley Culkin, for instance, insulting his enormous acting career by calling him, and those like him, one-hit wonders. In what imaginary world was Culkin a one-hit wonder? Seriously!? Well, that kind of nonsense won’t happen here. The kids on this list were all in big films. They were also all big actors in that one film. If we have the information, we’ll try to catch you up with their lives since we last saw them as well. It’ll be like reacquainting yourself with an old friend, except, in this case, these kids were never your friend. Here are 15 child stars who disappeared after one massive movie.
15. Carrie Henn – Aliens
She was Newt in James Cameron‘s Aliens and she was splendid. So, where’d the actress, Carrie Henn, go after making this film? Well, she left Hollywood right after, never appearing in another feature film again, though she has made some Alien-related appearances at conferences and on some behind-the-scenes specials. Henn had no acting experience before getting the role of Newt and she never got any after the Newt role. She settled down, became a schoolteacher and that’s that. She’s maintained that she never had an interest in taking her acting further, even with her odds of making it in the industry being exponentially higher than most children because of Aliens appearing on her resume. She did, however, say that if Quentin Tarantino asked, she would appear in one of his movies. Wouldn’t we all Carrie; wouldn’t we all.
14. Hal Scardino – The Indian in the Cupboard
In 1995, the world was introduced to Hal Scardino, the boy who played Omri in The Indian in the Cupboard. Prior to that, Scardino had a smaller role in Searching for Bobby Fischer and, after The Cupboard, he had a smaller role in Marvin’s Room, but his career never took off further than that. Soon after, Scardino left acting and went to Columbia University. Nowadays, he runs Aperta Productions, a non-profit organization that helps promote and stimulate the arts in some deprived sections of society. He did act in a film called The Show in 2015, but no one saw it, so we can’t and won’t comment on it, nor will we consider it as a comeback.
13. Alisan Porter – Curly Sue
The year was 1991 and Alisan Porter was the cute little girl in Curly Sue. Alongside Jim Belushi and under the watchful and talented eye of director John Hughes, Porter looked the part and everyone thought this little girl was going to be a star. It just never happened that way. Right after that film, Porter left the acting world behind. She did some stage acting and, many years later, acted in some garbage film, but that was it. As an adult, Porter became a mother and struggled with addiction for some time. Last year, Porter returned to the stage, but this time it was for singing as she was a contestant on The Voice. Porter went on to win the show, a bunch of money and a recording contract. Now that she’s releasing an album, she seems to be on the right track, but it’s doubtful she’ll ever return to acting now, so you can put away your foolish dreams people.
12. Amber Scott – Hook
Not a whole lot is known about Amber Scott, the little girl who played Maggie Banning in Steven Spielberg‘s Hook, except, of course, that she grew up to be incredibly hot. This honestly is the only thing that people talk about in regards to Scott. A decade ago, Scott was said to have graduated from Trinity College and maybe she became a model or was a model, but it looks like she’s trying to escape her childhood fame at any rate. We can, however, guarantee that, since she’s not playing up her early brush with fame, she’s doing well. Of course, she’s doing well. If she wasn’t, we would know where she was. She’d be singing that song she sang in Hook and doing interviews trying to leverage her old fame for some money. Maybe, when you look like her, you don’t need money.
11. Jason James Richter – Free Willy
Jason James Richter, everyone’s favorite actor from the Free Willy film, is coming back to Hollywood. Technically, he’s already back, but most of his new stuff hasn’t come out yet. Richter was a virtual unknown when he was cast as the star, Jesse, in Free Willy. He beat out 4,000 kids in an enormous casting call to win the role and it would spawn two sequels that no one saw. In 1997, he walked away from acting and, with the exception of one small role in 2001, didn’t return until 2009. Since then, he’s been in some small things, but he was mainly focused on making music with his band. Probably because his band never made any money, Richter has once again set his sights on acting. Good luck young sir.
10. Daniel Tay – Elf
When Daniel Tay got the role of Michael, Will Ferrell’s half brother in Elf, the world was his oyster. He was going to be a major star. Nope. He wasn’t. He had a few small roles as he got older, as well as some voice work, but nothing even close to what he had early in his career. So, where is he now? Who knows? He fell off the map and we can’t find him. We looked. Truthfully, since we watch Elf every year at Christmas, it’s kind of like Tay never went away. In a weird way, Elf is like Neverland for Tay, a place where he never gets older and never has to face the reality that his best days were already behind him when he hit 13 years old.
9. David Dorfman – The Ring
Usually when a child star leaves the acting profession, you expect that they’ll never again reach the same heights they did as children. That’s what we thought about the creepy little kid who played Aidan in The Ring, David Dorfman. After all, how could someone so creepy looking become successful? This little guy was strange looking from an early age, doing his best acting work by the age of nine and basically disappearing from the scene in 2005. Sure, he came back for a role here and there, but nothing significant. What was significant was his academic career afterward. This little freak was accepted into UCLA at age 13, Doogie Howser style. He also graduated as class valedictorian and was accepted into Harvard law at age 18. How in the hell?
8. Noah Hathaway – The NeverEnding Story
Atreyuuuuuu! Man, Noah Hathaway was the coolest kid in the world in the mid 80s. The NeverEnding Story was the bee’s knees and Atreyu was the legend of that legend. Hathaway wouldn’t totally disappear after The NeverEnding Story, though he might as well have. He landed the role of Harry Potter not long after. No, not that Harry Potter, the one no one remembered, the one from Troll. He wasn’t much longer for the acting profession though, as he moved to dance, then martial arts, then motorbikes and motorcycles. Nowadays, he’s come back to acting, but at a much, much lesser stage. He doesn’t really look like you’d expect he would, but he still looks pretty badass. We’ll give him that.
7. Peter Billingsley – A Christmas Story
Peter Billingsley has stuck with the industry through the years, but he’ll always be known for one role and one role only, that of Ralphie in A Christmas Story. Even though the film wasn’t very big when it first came out in 1983, over the years it’s become a staple of the holiday season and one of the most popular Christmas movies of all time. On some channels, they’ll play that film over and ever again in a marathon. Billingsley stuck with acting after that iconic role, but he would never again touch stardom again. Lately, he’s dabbled in producing (Iron Man) and directing (Couple’s Retreat). He’s also made a few cameos in big films, like Elf, Iron Man and Four Christmases. He says people will still stop him on the street and say, “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Imagine that encounter for a second, would ya? Hey, you! “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Heh. Awkward silence. Eyebrows raised. You remember that Ralphie? “Yeah man… I remember. My name’s Peter.”
6. Bradley Michael Pierce – Jumanji
We love The Burrowers, but we can’t consider it a big film. That means that one of the stars, Bradley Michael Pierce, has only ever been in one big film and that film was Jumanji. Pierce played the little boy, Peter, the one who turned into a monkey, the one who had that really disturbing scene when his monkey tail begins to grow in his pants and he’s all embarrassed about it, and everyone thinks he has an erection. What the hell were they thinking with that scene? That was just gross. Pierce technically didn’t “disappear” after Jumanji, since he was still doing some quality voice work, but when we say acting, we mean in front of a camera. These days Pierce is running a production company called ZFO Entertainment with Joey Zimmerman, the kid who played Dylan on Halloweentown, another one-hit wonder himself.
5. Jimmy Workman – The Addams Family
This one is interesting. So, Jimmy Workman goes to an audition with his sister, Shanelle Grey. She’s trying out for the role of Wednesday in The Addams Family, so, while she reads for the part, Workman is playing and waiting. The filmmakers see Workman and they think he’s perfect for the role of Pugsley. He’s chubby and looks weird. They cast him and send his sister packing. After that role, Workman doesn’t do a whole lot. His mother, however, does get busy, and she has another child. Guess who that little baby becomes? The actress Ariel Winter. That’s right, Pugsley is Alex Dunphy’s older brother! What!? Since leaving the acting profession, Workman has become a working man (terrible), staying in the film and TV industry as part of a technical crew. In 2013, he tried (and failed) to gain custody of Ariel, from older sister Shanelle, claiming that Shanelle was a bad influence, which is obviously true now.
4. Peter Ostrium – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Talk about going out while you’re on top. Peter Ostrium has one acting credit on his resume, that of Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. When Ostrium was first discovered in a nation-wide talent search, he had an interest in singing and acting, but that all changed. After filming in Germany finished, Ostrium was offered a three-year film contract, but he turned it down. While he says that he had fond memories of the shoot and the cast, he would walk away from acting and almost everything to do with film after filming Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He’s now a veterinarian and talks to kids about the film every so often, but he’s tried to avoid any interviews about his childhood stint in the film industry, saying, “I wanted people to judge me on who I was, not what I’d done,” which makes him a very insignificant for our purposes.
3. Danny Lloyd – The Shining
Danny Lloyd, the little boy who played Danny Torrance in The Shining, was only six-years old when he was cast in one of the biggest horror movies of all time. The story goes that Lloyd was given the role because of his ability to concentrate. In other words, Kubrick didn’t want a brat running around the set screaming like an idiot. Lloyd’s patience and calmness allowed for Kubrick to not only get the necessary shots, but he did it all without Lloyd ever learning he was on a horror film. After The Shining, Lloyd did one more film, a small TV movie, and then called it quits. Today, he’s a farmer and a biology teacher at a Kentucky community college.
2. Jeff Cohen – The Goonies
Looking back at the cast of The Goonies, the star power is incredible. Most of the young people on the set would go on to have enormous careers but not all of them. Jeff Cohen, the boy who played Chunk, was one who never really did anything else. They say that once he hit puberty, he struggled to find roles, but, the truth is, he struggled to find roles immediately after The Goonies finished. Cohen would leave the acting profession behind, setting his sights on the business side of the entertainment world. He went to college, used his industry connections to get summer jobs and then graduated with a law degree. Now, he’s an entertainment lawyer. While we may never see the truffle shuffle on camera again, it’s nice to know that Cohen ended up making something of his life.
1. Jake Lloyd – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Saying Jake Lloyd only had one massive movie is a bit of a stretch because who could ever forget the incredible Jingle All the Way? But really, Star Wars Phantom Menace is the film that everyone remembers Lloyd in, playing a little Anakin Skywalker. In the years that followed, after Lloyd’s retirement from acting in 2001, fans noticed that the child star was a bit odd. Temperamental, unpredictable, and, to the average observer, weird. Not long ago, Lloyd made headlines for taking police on a car chase through two counties in California. All his experience pod racing was put to the test as he raced through the city streets. Sadly, the hero lost this race. He was arrested and put in jail, but, recently, he was sent to a psychiatric facility to help manage his schizophrenia. So, that’s pretty much what he’s up to these days.