Acting is a lot like gambling: when and if you're ahead of the game, it's usually best to walk away with your winnings and invest them wisely. But like gambling, it's harder than you think because there's always that chance in a million you'll hit it big, that you'll be the next big star, your name on everyone's lips, your talents seemingly limitless.
Alas, that's the exception rather than the rule. Many actors appear to sprout from thin air (although most work for years in anonymity) and land a starring role that propels them to fame virtually overnight. Some choose parts in movies that don't get the promotion they deserve or act their hearts out just to get their best performances so pared down in editing that their true talents don't get properly showcased.
Although this aberration seems to affect child actors more than adult ones, it's actually the same no matter what age that first – and often last – memorable role is played. Sadly, be it child, teen or adult, most don't have one honest friend who will sit them down and break the news that they're just not that talented, much less the good sense or introspection to figure it out on their own.
8 Linda Blair
For a lot of baby boomers, The Exorcist is remembered as the most terrifying movie they ever saw. Remember that this was way before digitalization, CGI, damn near everything used in today's horror movies. And Linda Blair was who created the horror playing Regan, the possessed young girl whose head turned 360 degrees and who turned projectile vomiting into an art. She was five-years-old when she made that movie in 1973 and although she has a list of 69 acting credits, not one of them brought her any notoriety except her star appearance in The Exorcist.
7 Mark Hamill
Luke Skywalker was the darling of the silver screen for years as the brave young hero in the Star Wars trilogy from 1977 to 1983. Mark Hamill made the role his and impressed fans with personal appearances and soon an action figure was created in his image. Teenage girls swooned over Hamill and mothers saw him as the nice young man they'd always dreamed of for their daughters. But although Hamill had 28 roles before Star Wars and hundreds after Star Wars, he would never again enjoy the fame and fortune of those glory years. Now best known for playing roles that poke fun at the Skywalker character, Hamill will reprise his role as Luke Skywalker in the upcoming movie Star Wars: Episode VII schedule for release in 2015.
6 Macaulay Culkin
Before Home Alone had even opened in theaters, the shot of Macaulay Culkin's classic angst-ridden face with his hands clutching either cheek was legendary. The movie remains a holiday favorite almost 25 years later and Culkin had another hit 4 years later with My Girl. And then there was nothing. Still quite personable and attractive, Culkin either had a really lousy agent or plain bad luck. In fact, he lost his way so badly he got married at age 18 and then got caught up in the whole drug thing. Maybe he should've hung out more with My Girl co-star Anna Chlumsky; she just got nominated for an Emmy for her role on Veep.
5 Kirsten Dunst
Devoted fans know Dunst from her childhood roles in Woody Allen's short film anthology Oedipus Wrecks and her portrayal of Tom Hanks' character's daughter in Bonfire of the Vanities but her breakout role was vampire Claudia in Interview With A Vampire when she was 12. She was creepily mesmerizing as a little girl mature beyond her years, living with her "family" of two adult male vampires. Since that movie, Dunst's career has been hit and miss, with way too much time between the hits. If only an acting career was as easy as screen immortality.
4 Haley Joel Osment
Not quite as cute as Culkin – and disturbingly eerie for a little boy – Osment appears trapped in the persona that made him famous, Cole Sear, the kid who rocked his child psychologist's (played by Bruce Willis) world by proclaiming, "I see dead people," whom he also talked to in The Sixth Sense. Now 26-years-old, Osment looks almost exactly the same except his head and face are bigger and rounder and he's taller. With the diversity of films made these days, it seems there'd be a role somewhere for the guy.
3 Andrew Dice Clay
2 Selena Gomez
It's been a very long 12 years for Gomez, who first gained major media attention as a regular on the annoying child show Barney & Friends in 2002. She appeared on a long list of lighthearted shows geared toward youth and teens and established herself as a competent pop singer. But then Justin Bieber happened. The jury's still out on how that union will evolve but one thing's crystal clear: Gomez's career seems stuck in the proverbial second gear and she's known more for her on/off relationship with Bieber than for singing or acting.
1 Jon Heder
Who? Can you spell that? If you'd been told no one would know who Jon Heder was just 10 short years after Napoleon Dynamite tore up box offices across the country, you'd have bet the farm that was a big fat lie. But it's sadly true. In fact, the movie was forgotten quicker than Google Glass, with no talk of a remake and then a sad attempt at resurrection in 2012 as a TV show, which brought back Heder for the leading role. Nonetheless, you have to give Heder a gold star for his efforts to remain a viable actor. In the interim, he appeared in the hit TV show My Name is Earl and had small parts in some not so successful Will Ferrell and Rob Schneider movies. Heder currently does a lot of voiceover work but there's still hope for a comeback: he currently has five film/TV projects in post production.