Tasting success as a child actor is seemingly a Hollywood dream come true. Imagine a child so talented in the acting field that at such a young age, he experiences fame, fortune, and acclaim that many struggling adult actors never even get a smidgen of in their lifetime. And the parents capitalize on their children’s fame, sometimes at the expense of their childhood. After all, most of the child actors’ parents rationalize, success is fleeting and may only last while their kids are cute and cuddly. Case in point, Macaulay Culkin and Shirley Temple. They never quite garnered the same accomplishments as adult actors as opposed to when they were adorable kids filling our screens.
But there are the few actors who were able to transition to adult roles and even surpassed their achievements as child actors. The road wasn’t easy, but they were lucky. And they just plain persevered.
10 Jason Bateman
Though he has played mostly supporting roles on film, Jason Bateman can thank television for catapulting him to success. His first role on the small screen was in the popular TV show, Little House on the Prairie, where he played James Cooper, an orphaned boy adopted by the Ingalls family. After a few other roles as a teen actor, he became a respected adult actor when he played Michael Bluth in the critically acclaimed TV comedy, Arrested Development. For his role, he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy TV Series.
9 Neil Patrick Harris
Back in the day, we all knew Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser, the genius teenage doctor who struggled with the travails of the medical profession while trying to live his life as a teenager. After Doogie Howser, M.D. wrapped up, we thought Harris would follow the path of other child actor has-beens. After a string of supporting and guest roles on film and TV respectively, he resurfaced in another TV hit series, How I Met Your Mother, where he played ladies’ man, Barney Stinson, for which he received four Emmy nominations. The latest feather in his cap? A Tony Award for Best Actor for his Broadway performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch!
8 Elijah Wood
Who would have thought Elijah Wood actually appeared in Back to the Future II in a bit part as a kid playing video games? Though the public doesn’t remember, this small role jumpstarted his career as a prominent child actor. He gave great performances in films like Forever Young, Radio Flyer, and The Good Son. As an adult actor, his most well-known role is that of Frodo Baggins, the hobbit in the Lord of the Rings movie franchise. To avoid being typecast, he appeared in a variety of roles in Sin City, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Green Street.
7 Mayim Bialik
As a young teenager, Mayim Bialik made her way into our hearts as Blossom, a girl in her early teens living with her father and two brothers. The show ran for five seasons and when it ended, Bialik took on small TV roles and guest appearances only on occasion, as she wanted to concentrate on her studies. This actress not only has talent, but also brains. She obtained a doctorate degree in neuroscience from UCLA before she went back to a TV starring role in comedy hit show, Big Bang Theory, in which she has been nominated for an Emmy three times.
6 Emma Watson
Having played Hermione Granger in all eight Harry Potter movie installments starting age nine, Emma Watson was lucky to escape the curse of typecasting. Since her days as awkward, geeky Hermione, Watson has blossomed into a beautiful young woman, wowing on the red carpet with her amazing sense of fashion and appearing as an adult actress in movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower and Noah. With another movie called Regression slated to show in 2015, Watson is well on her way to becoming an in-demand Hollywood actress.
5 Anna Paquin
At the tender age of 11, Canadian-born New Zealand actress Anna Paquin became the second youngest winner in Oscar history for her amazing work in The Piano. This opened doors and paved the way for her to appear in other successful films, such as Fly Away Home and Almost Famous. She transitioned to adult acting roles in the billion-dollar X-Men film franchise as Rogue and garnered achievement as well on the small screen as Sookie Stackhouse in the HBO TV series, True Blood. For the TV series, she picked up a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a TV Drama Series, making her one of the most accomplished child-to-adult actors in the industry.
4 Jodie Foster
She made her TV debut at the tender age of three in a Coppertone commercial, which jumpstarted her career as a child star. Having appeared in almost 50 TV shows and movies as a child and a teenager, Jodie Foster landed her first significant role at age 14 when she starred as a child prostitute in the highly controversial film, Taxi Driver and for this role, she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She went on to become one of the most highly acclaimed adult actors in Hollywood history, with two Academy Awards under her belt.
3 Leonardo DiCaprio
He was once known as a teen heartthrob, making girls’ hearts and eyes flutter when he played Jack Dawson in the epic film, Titanic. But before that, Leonardo DiCaprio was a child actor on TV, appearing in shows like Parenthood and Santa Barbara. He had his first serious role when he was a teenager in the film, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, in which he so-movingly played a mentally handicapped child. He has since become one of the most respected adult actors of our time, having appeared in such critically-acclaimed movies as Blood Diamond, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, and Wolf of Wallstreet.
2 Elizabeth Taylor
She’s known for her many husbands and her amazing jewelry as much as for her success as an actress, with two Academy Awards tucked under her belt. It’s no surprise really, what an outstanding actress Elizabeth Taylor was, considering she had been thrust into the spotlight almost the moment she was born. Total strangers were mesmerized by her beauty even as a child and this led to her making her first movie at the tender age of nine. She went on to make several movies as a teenager, most of them opposite fellow child star Roddy McDowall before she blossomed into the adult actress we all knew her for, with movies like Cleopatra, Butterfield 8, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1 Drew Barrymore
Having come from a long line of Hollywood legends, it’s no surprise that Drew Barrymore’s life story can easily be made into a movie. She got her big break as a cute seven-year-old in Steven Spielberg’s film, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. In the midst of other successful roles as a child and teenager, Barrymore’s personal life took a turn for the worst. She started smoking cigarettes at the age of nine and by the time she hit 13, she was snorting cocaine. She finally cleaned up her act and came back into the limelight in a big way when she did a cameo in the horror film, Scream. And her career as an adult actress and producer has been flying high since then.
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