Hollywood has always been known to push the envelope when it comes to casting young female stars, often placing them in mature roles that take them away from their squeaky clean image once and for all. But we’re not talking about actresses that play violent characters (like Natalie Portman’s 12-year-old contract killer in Léon: The Professional), we’re talking about actresses that showed a little too much flesh at a pretty tender age in their career.
For some of the young starlets on this list, their flesh-baring scenes were a departure from innocent roles in their past, but for others, these controversial moments were some of their first to ever be seen on screen, making it even more daunting for them - not to mention awkward and uncomfortable for the viewer. In some cases, the revealing scenes were justified in the film (since some roles on this list include prostitutes and strippers), but this doesn’t make it any less shocking.
It makes you wonder whether or not film-makers could have simply cast an actress that looks young enough to play the part. Then again, the films may never have gotten the recognition or attention they did – and what better way to get the attention of critics (and parents the world over) than to cast a young actress in a role that borders on child pornography? From steamy love scenes and skimpy outfits to going topless for the sake of art, here are 15 stars who definitely showed too much, too young.
15 Brooke Shields - Pretty Baby
When many people think of Brooke Shields, they think back to her controversial 1980 movie Blue Lagoon which featured a 14-year-old Shields appearing semi-naked throughout. But this wasn't the first time audiences saw the brunette beauty go nude on screen. At just 12 years old, Shields played a child prostitute in the 1978 period drama, Pretty Baby. In one scene that makes for very uncomfortable viewing, her character is "sold" to a male customer and she appears completely naked.
Shields revealed in an interview that because her youth was spent in the public eye, she remained a virgin until the age of 22 because she was so unhappy with her body image. Shields is now considered one of the most desirable women on the planet, so it’s a shame that a role that may have put too much pressure on her at such a young age would have given her such a warped view of herself.
14 Chloe Grace Moretz - Hick
When she burst onto the scene as the sweary bad-ass superhero Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, a 12-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz already proved to be far too grown up for us to handle – especially as her character famously used the C-word during one fight scene! But as shocking as hearing a little girl use profanity was in a mainstream blockbuster, this was as adult as it got for Moretz. That is until we saw her in her next role as a gun-toting teen in the 2011 film Hick.
If it weren’t shocking enough to see Chloe playing with guns and cocaine, the Kick-Ass star also sported a few revealing looks for her role – wearing mini skirts and tops that showed off her midriff. She could also be seen wearing just a cami top and rainbow panties in one scene. When you consider that Moretz will have only been 13 or 14 years old during the making of the film, this definitely feels a tad wrong.
13 Dominique Swain - Lolita
Dominique Swain was just 16 when she played the title role of Lolita in the 1997 adaptation of the hugely controversial Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same name. For those unfamiliar with the plot, a middle-aged professor becomes infatuated with his landlady’s daughter and embarks on a forbidden love affair with her. As someone who has recently watched the 1997 remake of Lolita, the raunchy scenes are still stuck in my mind and are some of the most uncomfortable I’ve ever seen on screen.
The then 16-year-old Swain used a body double for her more steamy love scenes with her co-star Jeremy Irons, but even when the characters weren’t getting hot and heavy with each other, Lolita’s day to day look was very sexualized – Swain spent the film in sexy rompers and shorts that always had her beautifully-long pins on show. In her introductory scene, she’s sitting beneath sprinklers which soaks her and turns her summer dress transparent.
12 Thora Birch - American Beauty
If you grew up in the 90s, you probably can’t help thinking of Thora Birch as Dani in Hocus Pocus, the adorable little sister of Max. This is probably one of her most well-known roles in the 90s, but a role she’s also known for is in American Beauty and this is what makes it so weird. Birch went from playing a cute little girl to a disturbed teenager who goes nude for a voyeuristic creep – how quickly they grow up!
In the 1999 Oscar-winning film starring Kevin Spacey, a then 17-year-old Birch played the troubled daughter Jane. In one very uncomfortable scene – considering Thora’s tender young age – her character notices her neighbor videotaping her from across the street. Birch teases her creepy stalker even further by removing her shirt and then her bra. As Hocus Pocus and American Beauty were the only two films I had seen with Birch in, this nude scene was quite a shock and - I’m sure others would agree - a little exploitative.
11 Alicia Silverstone - The Crush
A lot of the films mentioned on this list seem to follow a similar premise to Lolita and the 1993 thriller The Crush is probably the closest one to mirror the plot completely. The film starred a then 17-year-old Alicia Silverstone as Darian, the beautiful teen who is the object of Cary Elwes’ fascination. Elwes' character Nick rents the room of a couple and soon finds himself obsessed with their beautiful teenage daughter.
While staying there, Nick watches Darian sunbathing through blinds and even catches her undressing in one scene, in which we see Silverstone strip completely naked. Because of the voyeuristic way the film is shot – i.e. peeking through blinds and watching her from afar - it almost feels like the viewer is watching something we shouldn't be. Silverstone’s character may be aware and deliberately encouraging of his desire for her, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s only 17 in this.
10 Nikki Reed - Mini’s First Time
When Nikki Reed appeared alongside Evan Rachel Wood in the edgy coming-of-age drama Thirteen, we already saw her get up to some pretty wild stuff. In the racy 2003 drama, Nikki Reed and Wood were only a couple of years older than their characters but they were arguably still quite young for some of the scenes, which included self-harm, pot-smoking, and lesbian lip-locking. As controversial as Reed’s role was in Thirteen, this was merely a warm up for what she’d move on to next.
A few years later in 2006, Nikki appeared in the provocative film Mini’s First Time (straight away, you can probably guess what this is about). In it, the 17-year-old Nikki Reed plays a sultry, mischievous teenager who takes it upon herself to become a call girl and her first client is none other than her own stepfather (played by a 46-year-old Alec Baldwin!). Reed flaunts her beautiful young body in bikinis throughout most of the film and gets intimate with Baldwin’s character more than once – including one unsettling scene where he rubs lotion on her. Disturbing.
9 Drew Barrymore - Poison Ivy
Once upon a time, Drew Barrymore was only ever thought of as the cute as a button little girl Gertie in E.T., but as with most child stars, it didn’t take long for Drew to start shedding her America’s sweetheart image. After E.T., Barrymore had a few starring roles in films throughout the 1980s, but it was the 1992 film Poison Ivy that the 17-year-old star truly let go of her child star status and entered into full wild child mode.
Like Lolita, Poison Ivy centered around a seductive teen girl driving an older man wild with desire. Drew was no longer a little girl and if audiences weren’t convinced of this just by looking at her, she made sure of it by starring in a film that saw her have steamy make-out scenes with a man twice her age. Aside from wearing plenty of provocative outfits, Drew had jaws dropping the most during one love scene where her character makes out with Tom Skerritt in the rain, and he removes her bra and panties. Gertie who?
8 Jodie Foster - Taxi Driver
Jodie Foster may be known for her roles in The Silence of the Lambs and Panic Room, but her breakout role was in Taxi Driver - and what an entrance she made. Foster was just 14 when she played the character of Iris, a prostitute walking the grimy streets of 1970s New York. Throughout the film, Foster’s character was (unsurprisingly) scantily-clad in shorts and skimpy tops and although she never actually got nude for the role (Foster’s sister Carrie was her body double for the raunchier scenes), seeing a 14-year-old in such an adult role was and still remains quite a shock to this day.
In a film that concerns itself with an insomniac psychopath (played by Robert De Niro) and scenes of bloody violence, Jodie Foster’s appearance as a prostitute is still what makes Taxi Driver so controversial decades on. Foster earned her first Oscar nod for this role so, as shocking as it was, critics were more impressed than appalled with her role as a teenage hooker.
7 Katya Berger - Piccole Labbra
In 1978, a little-known World War 1 drama was released called Piccole Labbra (and the more you know about it, you start to realize why it has become relatively unknown). The plot centers around a writer who returns from the war with post-traumatic stress disorder and finds comfort and new meaning in the company of a 12-year-old girl, played by Katya Berger. He falls in love with her and they engage in various sex scenes together, in which a 14-year-old Berger appears nude.
If playing the pre-teen object of desire for an older man was not shocking enough, the title of this highly controversial Spanish drama translates roughly as "Little Lips" (or "Inner Labia" if you want to get really graphic). Talk about too much too young! At an age where most kids are still being taught about the birds and the bees, 14-year-old Berger was simulating it on screen. I wonder if Katya Berger knew the real meaning behind the title.
6 Olivia d'Abo - Bolero
Most people will recognize Olivia d’Abo as the pretty older sister of Kevin Arnold in the much-loved 80s show The Wonder Years, but before landing this fairly conservative, squeaky clean TV role, you could say that Olivia had something of a risqué past. Four years before The Wonder Years in 1984, a then 14-year-old d’Abo appeared in a number of films roles that her TV dad Jack Arnold would definitely disapprove of (even if Olivia’s real dad had no problem with them!).
In the same year, Olivia starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer and wore some pretty raunchy outfits for a young teen girl, but it was her role in the 1984 film Bolero where d’Abo shed a lot of her innocence (and more besides). In the film – co-starring Bo Derek – Olivia played a gypsy girl and went completely naked during most scenes. The film was supposedly atrocious and bombed, but on the plus side, D’Abo was able to put it behind her and pursue a more successful TV career.
5 Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
The quirky ensemble comedy Little Miss Sunshine was a film full of surprises (both sad and heart-warming ones), but perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of the 2006 indie comedy was the scene involving a 10-year-old Abigail Breslin performing a stripper dance routine. Thankfully, her routine did not go "all the way" - otherwise, this film would have never seen the light of day! – but it was a little unnerving, to say the least.
In the film, Breslin’s character has traveled across the US to enter a beauty pageant and arrives to realize that – with her geeky appearance – she will never stand a chance among all the spray-tanned little darlings competing alongside her. Admirably, she decides to put on a show the judges (and the audience watching) would never forget. Halfway through her cheeky, twerk-filled dance, she throws her top hat and waistcoat off to reveal a black sparkly top and red hot pants. It may be a comedy and all in good fun, but it’s strange to think that Breslin’s parents were okay with her basically impersonating a stripper at 10 years old!
4 Eva Ionesco - Maladolscenza
Interestingly, the Brooke Shields film Pretty Baby in which Shields played an underage prostitute was actually inspired by the real life story of Eva Ionesco. Straight away, this lets you know what you’re dealing with in terms of showing too much too young, and disturbingly for Ioenesco, this wasn’t just limited to films. Eva Ioensco was the French actress and daughter of famous French photographer Irina Ionesco.
By the time Eva appeared nude in the widely banned film Maladolscenza, she had already posed for Playboy magazine at the incredibly tender age of 11. She also appeared in a spread for Penthouse magazine shortly after and amazingly, these images were taken and publicized by her own mother. Maladolscenza – which has since been banned in several countries and ceased DVD production – featured a 12-year-old Eva and a fellow young actress appearing in explicit nude scenes together. Creepy as hell.
3 Michelle Johnson - Blame It On Rio
Again, we have another re-telling of the Lolita story, with Michael Caine in the role of the obsessive, pervy middle-aged guy and Michelle Johnson as the sexy young girl that he can’t help falling for. The film in question is the fairly trashy 1980s comedy Blame it on Rio, in which two buddies having a mid-life crisis decide to go on vacay with their teen daughters when one ends up falling for the other one’s daughter.
Thankfully, the fairly creepy premise hides behind a daft comedy romp, but this doesn’t help tone down the awkwardness when the 17-year-old Michelle Johnson is seen getting topless in front of guys twice her age (one of which includes her character’s dad!). Blame it on Rio also stars an 18-year-old Demi Moore as the other daughter and both girls appear semi-nude throughout the film. Considering that this was Johnson's debut film role, she can’t have been too shy about the idea of nude scenes in the future if she was able to live this down!
2 Ellen Page - Hard Candy
Before Ellen Page stole our hearts as the wise-cracking pregnant teen in Juno, she starred in a disturbing crime thriller which has largely been forgotten about called Hard Candy. In a film that centers around an older man preying on young girls, you expect there to be plenty of awkward and uncomfortable moments (and there are), but perhaps the most squirm-worthy scene is the one where Page’s character Hayley is dancing in nothing but her bra and short skirt.
Ellen Page had just turned 18 years old at the time of playing the role of a 14-year-old who gets revenge on a rapist murderer, but you can see why she was cast – Page has always looked a lot younger than her years (which makes this flesh-revealing scene even more unsettling to watch). Page had her midriff on show, all while dancing provocatively to torture Patrick Wilson’s pedophile character.
1 Maria Schneider - Last Tango In Paris
When Maria Schneider signed up for the role of a beautiful French temptress in Last Tango in Paris, she can’t have ever imagined that the film would go down as one of the most controversial in movie history. As for what made the film so scandalous – where do you start? The rape scene involving the infamous stick of butter or the fact that Schneider's co-star Marlon Brando was twice her age?
Maria Schneider was 19 years old at the time of making the film, and while 19 may pass for adult in some eyes, Schneider was clearly way too young to have starred in love scenes with a then 48-year-old Brando and even younger still to have featured naked in the scissor position for her first proper role on screen. What makes these nude scenes even more awkward to watch is the fact that Brando told Schneider on set that she reminded him of his daughter. Not creepy at all.
Sources: screenrant.com, theclever.com