It’s heartwarming to watch adorable boys and girls onscreen – it makes for wholesome family entertainment, right? They look cute, act their little hearts out, and most of the world falls for them. But fame, as we all have seen, is one fickle mistress. Some of these children grow up and fade into anonymity. Some take it hard while others like the fact that they are out of showbiz, and thus manage to carve out careers away from the limelight. Still, others are able to successfully transition from being a child actor to being the main protagonist in a money-backed Hollywood venture. But there are also those who get sucked into the deep and infinite pit of darkness and despair. Success goes to their head and many of these once-adorable kids cannot handle the success or the lack of it in their teens and above.
You could call it the human weakness for not everyone is able to handle the ebb and flow of success and fame. But you could also call it a common link for many of these child actors. What is it that Hollywood does to them? Why are so many of these young lives ruined so early? Is it just the pressure of being in the limelight? Perhaps, but many times, it’s also what goes on in the hush-hush behind the scenes and on the sets that matters the most. These are Hollywood’s dirty little secrets about child actors.
15. Their Parents Are In It For The Money
Many of the child actors are not acting by choice. They don’t want to act or be in the limelight. Many of them are pressured to get into the industry, at an age young enough that brooks no refusal. And the parents are in it for the money. In 1921, the much acclaimed Charlie Chaplin movie The Kid premiered to an enthused audience. It has since remained embedded in movie history as being one of the greatest movies of all time. The kid in it was child actor John Leslie “Jackie” Coogan who was seven at the time of the movie release. With this movie and more, he had amassed some $3-4 million, which his father furthered via investment. When his father died and his mother remarried, Coogan discovered all his fortune had been squandered away. His mother claimed that since he was a kid, the right to his earnings was hers and that Coogan was a bad boy indeed.
14. The Child Has Control Of Only 15% Of His/Her Earnings
So after the case of Jackie Coogan and the unfortunate series of events, the Coogan’s law came into effect. This law dictated that at least 15% of the hard-earned money of these little actors would be put in a trust for them (called Coogan’s trust) which they inherit at 21. So despite the Coogan’s law coming into effect, the child still manages to save just 15% of his money from avaricious elders. Basically, if your parents have an eye on your money, there’s not much you can do about it unless you are strong enough like Macaulay Culkin to sue your family and break away from them…
Despite the wholesome family image the Culkins strived to retain, Culkin legally managed to prevent his parents from managing his $11 million fortune and remains estranged from them. His drug bust and his sister’s death from a car accident haven’t brought the family any closer.
13. The Parents Who Aren’t Money-Minded Soon Lose Their Authority
For the few parents who aren’t in it for the money and for those who actually warn their kids from making a career in the very fickle world of the spotlight, things are definitely not easier. While they may try their best to keep their child as safe and as grounded as possible, their “star” child is now everyone’s property. Media people are free to ask a little girl whatever they want. And when all else fails, there’s always the “professional” entourage to diss the parents and cater to every whim of their “star.” For example, every effort was made to keep Jeff “Chunk” Cohen as chunky as possible while he did The Goonies. His little dance called the “Truffle Shuffle” immortalized him as a chubby, jelly-belly kid. But he was smart, and when director Richard Donner introduced him to the business side of Hollywood, he got on that gravy train and also got fit. Now he’s a hot-shot entertainment lawyer of some repute!
12. The Entourage Takes Over The Kid’s Entire Life
Once a child turns into a star or a sensation, Hollywood milks that success for all it’s worth. It starts with the studio that child actor has made it big with. Once success is assured and the contract is already there, entertainment companies will hire an entourage for that child actor. This entourage will dress them up, tell them where to go, how to behave, and what to say. All “naughty” circumstances will be shushed up or played up – depending on the need of the hour. A shining example of a star who never got to have a childhood was Michael Jackson. Ruled by an iron-fisted father who wanted fame at any cost and then beset by media and recording labels all his life, Michael’s Neverland was a testament to the fact that he was never allowed to be a kid. And that is perhaps the saddest legacy of a star besieged by scandals.
11. The Fanbase Is More Judging Than Adoring
The child fans of a child actor are cool – they are innocent themselves and simply like the character more than the actual actor. The parents of the fans? Not so much. Most of the parents in a fan base end up being terribly judgmental. So while the child actor is all goody-two-shoes and the parents can imagine their child to grow up like that, there’s plenty of love for the little actor. But the moment the actor grows up a bit and strays into the world of tantrums, breakdowns, drugs, or worse – it’s the parents who become the most upset! Think Miley Cyrus. As long as she was a “good” girl the boys could bring home or the girls could dream to be, the parents loved her. But when she began twerking, wearing next to nothing and singing risqué songs on stage (and sticking her tongue out), the parents sent her vicious hate mail and criticism, not that she cares.
10. They Are Made To Work 8-Hour Shifts
Depending on their age, child actors can be asked to work up to eight hours a day if the child is not in school or being home-schooled. If they do attend regular classes, then they can still be asked to work for five hours after those school hours. So for the child actors, it is often all work and no play, making Jack and Jill rather dull boys and girls. Some child actors are smarter than the rest, though. Remember Jonathan Taylor Thomas? He was that good looking kid in Home Improvement and then went on to voice young Simba in The Lion King. Word is his acting schedules got him so harried, and that he finally upped and left to actively pursue academics. He did come back for a stint for a short while but went off the radar again. He stays clean, though, but stays mostly incognito.
9. Most Child Actors End Up With Bare Threads of Education
Schooling remains mandatory for child actors but the schooling itself is flexible. While some of the nobler parents of the child actor (the kind who really don’t need or want the money and are letting the child act out of his or her own free will) do insist that their little stars go to normal public school to stay grounded, mostly this is not the case. The child actors are likely to get an education from a tutor brought onset, and will often end up with no formal skills or degrees. In 1998, Gary Coleman who was once the highest-paid of child actors (Different Strokes), was etching out a meager living as a security guard, when a “fan” asked for an autograph. This request apparently made the fan eat Coleman’s fist, who was then arrested for assault and battery. But why did Coleman get violent? Because the fan taunted him, “That’s why you didn’t make it as a successful actor as an adult,” simply because Gary never really got an education.
8. When The Gigs Dry Up, They Have Nothing To Do
Let’s face it, cute little munchkins don’t always grow up into cute heartthrobs. Sometimes the cuteness goes away for good once adolescence and then adulthood set in. Or sometimes, despite the cuteness turning into beauty, roles still dry up. So the child actor, who is no longer a child, is no longer an actor either. And since the education they got was kind of threadbare, and all they know is how to prance and preen in front of the cameras, these teens or adults simply don’t know what hit them once the acting offers recede. Think of Dana Plato. Once a popular star in Different Strokes, she got into drugs big time and her unwed pregnancy made the show runners throw her out. Desperate for money, she applied for a $6-an-hour job at her Las Vegas apartment complex but was turned down due to lack of education and experience. Plato then armed herself with a pellet gun and robbed a strip-mall video store of $164. Drugs and another relationship later, she died in her 30s in a nondescript trailer house.
7. Child Actors Are Terribly Vulnerable To Predation
Corey Feldman has been going on and on about the utter depravity in Hollywood circles, where child actors are often preyed upon. They are often preyed upon by photographers, agents, casting agents and the likes. The industry has been turning a blind eye to it all but maybe it’s time to take off the rose-tinted glasses and take a good look around. While Feldman was still able to hold onto life and managed to make a modest fortune, his namesake and friend Corey Haim wasn’t all that lucky. Known as a teen heartthrob, Corey Haim never made it big as an adult actor. Two bit roles interspersed with drugs and rehab stints made him an untouchable in Hollywood circles. Finally, this 30-something star collapsed and passed away in the apartment he shared with his mother. His death wasn’t from drugs, though, but from pneumonia that his drug-weakened body could not recover from.
6. Morphed Child Images Are Not Exactly Illegal
If some deviant decides to really like a child actor, and then morph his or her face over the bodies of adults in suggestive poses, this is for some inexplicable reason not illegal. Well, not in many states. Other than a child actor facing and staving off predators within the industry, he or she should also never Google himself or herself if they want to remain sane for the rest of their lives. Because the Internet is rife with utterly vile trash about them and there’s really nothing they could do about it. It takes bullying to a whole new level. The law argues that morphed child images that show children inappropriately don’t do actual “harm” to a child. But what about the child in question whose face has been so blatantly used and abused on the Internet? The physical harm may be none but the psychological effects ripple to the point of no return. Most, if not all, child actors have been subject to this. Lindsay Lohan was once a victim, and what a fantastic adult she turned into!
5. If Successful They Are Spoiled To The Point Of No Return
Some of the younger child actors have been guileless enough to admit that the best thing they love about being in a movie or a show is the fact that they get tons of gifts. Brands want a chunk of them so there are toys galore. The fashion industry wants to dress them up for free. Hotels, restaurants or amusement parks want them to be photographed at select locations. So if successful, freebies are never-ending. That tells the child that the world is theirs for the taking. So imagine their surprise when they realize it is not! Think about Edward Furlong. When he burst onto the scene as the mop-haired, vulnerable pre-teen in Terminator, he pulled at your heart strings. His acting skills put him on the map – of movies, freebies and adverts. And then just as suddenly, he became a slob with no work and a long rap sheet.
4. When Not In Demand They Are Deliberately Forgotten
So after a string of successful mega hits, sometimes a child actor delivers a series of mega flops. Well, no can do. Flops means that you are no longer saleable and your cuteness isn’t paying the bills anymore. So suddenly, the actor is very deliberately sidelined and forgotten. The roles dry up and the freebies stop. Suddenly, there’s a next best thing in town, and you aren’t it. The results are massive psychologist’s bills! This happened to Jonathan Brandis. This guy was the best thing since sliced bread when it came to teen stardom when he starred as a non-geeky computer genius in the science-fiction series seaQuest DSV. Despite being charming and his fairly decent acting fare, Brandis was soon forgotten after he reached adulthood. He never got any roles and sadly enough, he soon gave up on his career and his life.
3. Illegal Substances Are An Easy Find For Them, At Any Age
So this is one thing that no one in Hollywood will ever admit too. But the fact is that even child actors find alcohol and drugs very, very easy to source in the big, bad world of the spotlight. And the dark truth is that it is sometimes the very entourage the child is entrusted to that gets them hooked on to illegal substances as a bid to control and own them. Take the case of Jodie Sweetin, who skyrocketed to fame in Full House as Stephanie Tanner, when she was just five. After the show was finally canceled in 1995, she began drinking heavily. Then barely legal, she married a police officer, Shaun Holguin and moved on to drugs. Three years later it was rehab, a divorce, two more marriages and another divorce, and many other struggles as well. Fame can be very, very addictive and when that is gone, some actors end up looking for other deadlier fixes.
2. Everyone Loves A Public Breakdown
We are a rather vitriolic audience. As much as we love a heart-warming success story, breakdowns are fun to watch. We get hooked to the gossip and all the drama, tut-tut for the poor actor and then go give the gossip to the others. Think about Amanda Bynes. The Nickelodeon series All That and The Amanda Show catapulted her to fame. Then she starred in well-received movies like What a Girl Wants, She’s the Man, Hairspray and Easy A. Suddenly, out of the blue, in 2012, Bynes announced that she was retiring from acting. Then things really hit the fan. Multiple DUIs, hit-and-runs and drug busts later, she was arrested again for trying to start a fire in front of a stranger’s house. Into the UCLA medical center she went for treatment. She seems to be doing better now, and has enrolled for a fashion course. Now of course, no one cares – she was news when she was being crazy!
1. Their Past Is Inescapable
Anyone remember who Mara Wilson is? Well, Mara Wilson played the titular character in Matilda. You may be wondering what happened to her. She is alive and well and pursuing a writing career. She’s fine and making a go of a normal life. Mara Wilson made a successful transition from a much-loved child actor to a girl who got herself an education and is now a budding writer. She still gets recognized, though, and says that people are part delighted that she has not ruined her life like many other child actors, and partly disappointed that she made a scandal-free transition to a normal life. And that’s the hard fact: the past is always inescapable for all, but especially for child actors. Some people recognize them as if they were an old friend, while some make nasty comments about their downfall or eventual fading away from the limelight. So basically, once a child actor, always a child actor!
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