Before They Were Stars: 20 Actors Who Were Too Young For These Roles

It's about that time again. It’s time to take a gander and feast your eyes upon some of our favorite actors when they were younger, perhaps too young for the roles they were portraying. Girls with guns, girls with raging libidos, and young ladies in danger; they're all here. Even when the actor is the right age for the role, the experiences that their character goes through are things that no one should have to go through.

There are all kinds of reasons we love our favorite stars playing roles they shouldn't be playing at tender young ages. For this go around, we've expanded the playing field and included the boys too. For the boys though, for the most part, they’re not overly sexualized. Their roles are usually reserved for being abused and of course being creepy little kids in horror movies.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of our favorite and most beloved stars before they were stars, in roles they were too young for.

20 Milla Jovovich – Return To The Blue Lagoon


To look at Milla Jovovich for many fans, is to know what perfection looks like. Her face is sultry and seductive, but her smile is girl next door all the way. Her body is slinky with curves in all the right places and she has played in some pretty memorable action movies, most notably The Resident Evil flicks and of course The Fifth Element as Leeloo, the savior of the universe.

To backtrack a little before Milla achieved action heroine status, she had a minor breakout performance in Dazed And Confused and had a memorable bit role as a foreign exchange student who lives with the Bundy’s on Married…With Children.

But before all of that, Jovovich would star in Return To The Blue Lagoon. Much like the Brooke Shields clunker ten years prior, the only reason to watch this movie is to see a way too young Milla prance around in her skivvies, if you're into that sort of thing.

19 Dakota Fanning – I Am Sam


Being an unknown very little girl and having your entire world re-made by how powerful your acting chops is no small fete that should be ignored, in fact it should be praised. It isn't every day a young actor or an actress comes along to steal scenes from Sean Penn and the hearts of audiences everywhere. But that's exactly what Dakota Fanning did in I Am Sam.

The movies tale of a father with a developmental disability trying to gain custody of his daughter and prove he's a fit parent tugs at every heart string you'd expect the film’s subject matter to tug at, and Fanning’s Lucy is of course right at the center of the proceedings. Yes she's young; like her character, but she also shows the poise of a veteran actress in a role portraying a girl who should have never had to go through this drama.

18 Uma Thurman – Kiss Daddy Goodnight


Thanks to a charming dance number opposite John Travolta and an alluring shot of her on the bed plastered all over the world in 1994 for the film Pulp Fiction helped turn the leggy bombshell model, Uma Thurman into a household name and an actress fans should watch and directors should cast.

While many believe she became Tarantino’s muse, she has been in so many more films1, but has also been part of the cast of many great films – Dangerous Liaisons, The Truth About Cats And Dogs, and Hysterical Blindness to name a few. She is consistently in fairly decent to great films and is consistently considered one of the most beautiful women in the world.

But first, we met a 17 year old Uma Thurman in Kiss Daddy Goodnight. Thurman played Laura, a young girl who dresses up like a sexy temptress to guys pick her up at the bar, only to rob them later. Things heat up when one of her marks start stalking her and a friend is murdered.

17 Juliette Lewis – Too Young To Die


Since her portrayal of crazy psycho killer, Mallory Knox in Natural Born Killers, Juliette Lewis has been known for playing all kinds of in–your–face bad ass girls, including Iron Maven in Whip It and Katherine Fuller in From Dusk Till Dawn.

In 1982, Attina Marie Cannaday killed a man with the help of David Gray. She was 16 years old at the time and had been married and then divorced by the age of fourteen. For her crime, even though Gray had been the person to convince her to murder Ronald Wojcik was sentenced to die by lethal injection, which was commuted to a life sentence, being released on parole in 2008.

The real life story and the lady known for playing crazed girls crossed paths, Lewis played the TV version of Cannaday, Amanda Sue Bradley in the TV film, Too Young To Die in 1990, when Lewis was 17 and her character was 15. Brad Pitt (who she also starred with in Kalifornia) played Billy who introduces her to drugs and prostitution and then to kill the man she loved. In the film, Bradley is sentenced to die.

16 Angelina Jolie – Cyborg 2


A young girl with a gun – why on Earth is this a popular thing? Maybe it is the duality of such a violent thing being utilized by an innocent little girl molded into a violent weapon herself by the violence around her? Or perhaps it's just that for some strange reason girls with guns are something that sells. So why not combine the two for cinematic storytelling?

In past Too Young articles, we've seen Natalie Portman, Saoirse Ronan, and several other starlets wielding some serious weaponry. Now it's time to take a look at one of Hollywood’s modern goddesses before she achieved deity status - Angelina Jolie in her debut, Cyborg 2.

At just 17 years old, and years before many roles involving many guns, Jolie debuted in the clunker and played the title role, a Cyborg named “Reese” (Terminator fans probably had a field day with that one), who was designed for corporate espionage and assassination, but also was able to feel love.

15 Mila Kunis – Gia


When Mila Kunis got her first big break, she had lied about her age to get her big break on That '70s Show. Her role as Jackie plus her good looks got her memorable roles in films after the series ended like The Book Of Eli, Black Swan, and most recently Bad Moms and soon in Bad Moms Christmas.

She might not always get the big time roles, but thanks to her beauty, which puts her on top of top hottie lists in all kinds of magazines and websites, Mila Kunis is a sultry succubus trapped in a comedian’s body as she continues to make us laugh as Meg Griffin on Family Guy.

Oddly enough, it would be Kunis playing a younger version of another star with smoldering, smokey eyes as she was getting her big break that Kunis would get her foot in the door, she played a young Gia Carangi, in the film that Angelina Jolie became a star in – Gia.

14 Danny Lloyd – The Shining


Who would have thought that there are so many things that could happen in the life of a small boy living in a hotel with just his mom and dad. Ghosts, goblins, hedge mazes, elevators filled with blood, and being able to commune telepathically with some weird old guy. All of that insane nonsense and we haven't even gotten to dear old dad being driven completely nucking futs by all of the pyro and ballyhoo going on around him.

It's enough to drive a kid crazy, or at least traumatize him for life. But luckily the director of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick did all he could to actually shield little Danny Lloyd from the fact that he was the star of one of the trippiest, most haunting horror movies ever made. Lloyd thought he was just making a drama about a family in a hotel.

There are seldom few films in modern history as beloved as The Shining, and seldom films where a star is born instantly and then flutters out instantly as well. Danny Lloyd’s first film was this one and it was also his last, for whatever reason he retired from acting shortly after – which surely sets the film’s conspiracy fans into a tizzy.

13 Brooke Shields – Pretty Baby

In a few of these articles, we hopped into the way back machine to the seventies. With the times being much less P.C. and less safe spaces were needed, filmmakers were able to burn boundaries right to the ground, censors be damned. As we came into the eighties, the times were still scandalous and movies like The Blue Lagoon happened.

That movie isn't really known for anything except teenage stunner, former model, Brooke Shields running around naked for most of the proceedings. After the film, she would become mostly a sitcom star and this year, she'll be on this upcoming season of SVU.

But even before the uproar of Lagoon, Shields was at the center of a scandal when she was and played 12 years old in Pretty Baby, where she plays Violet, a child prostitute in turn of the 20th century New Orleans.

12 Nikki Reed – Mini’s First Time


Although she got her start writing and starring in Thirteen, Nikki Reed’s star didn't begin to actually shine until the Twilight films, where she played Rosalie Hale. In between her debut and the vamp romance saga, Reed’s star steadily rose as she appeared in a few movies and TV shows like The O.C. and movies like Lords of Dogtown.

The dark-haired stunner also was the star of Mini’s First Time. At around 17-18 years old, Reed played the titular role. She is a high school senior who loves unique experiences and decides to give being a call girl a shot - how's that for unique experience? Hijinks ensue in this dark comedy when Mini’s client is her step-father Martin, played by Alec Baldwin.

The two conspire to kill Mini’s mother so they can be together and have to deal with nosey neighbors and pesky detectives. How many of your high school senior years were filled with such drama?

11 Reese Witherspoon – Freeway

You might be seeing Reese Witherspoon on this list and wonder why she's not here for Cruel Intentions. Or perhaps you're thinking about her performance in The Man In The Moon, where she played 14 year old Dani Trant who falls for a 17 year old boy. But in both cases, Witherspoon was actually just the right age for her respective role.

While she might have been 19 at the time, no age is old enough for her role as Vanessa Lutz in the batcrap crazy take on the children’s classic Little Red Riding Hood, Freeway. Coming from a broken home where mom was a prostitute and her stepdad is arrested for drugs and child abuse.

Kiefer Sutherland is the big bad wolf in this movie, Bob Wolverton, who is shot in self–defense by Vanessa and sets off a chain of events that will leave her severely unhinged, including a stint in prison.

10 Jennifer Lawrence – The Burning Plain


There has been a whole lot of hullabaloo online made about how Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much too young for just about every role she takes. Her naysayers have opined that her performances in films like American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, while are deftly performed, Lawrence is simply way too young to be playing these roles (she’s not even 30 yet) and they should have gone to actresses the right age for the part.

But days after turning 18, The Burning Plain was released and she actually was very young. In the film from Guillermo Arriage (21 Grams), Lawrence plays a young girl Mariana who catches her mother having an affair with a married man, Nick. In trying to get them to stop, she sets their trailer on fire, although not intending to kill them, it most certainly does. She eventually flees to Mexico with Nick’s son Santiago and becomes preggers, but she abandons her family and leaves.

9 Claire Danes – Law And Order “Skin Deep”


Quietly, without a lot of fanfare attached to her name, Claire Danes more or less sits atop the food chain as one of the most respected actresses of her generation. At 15 years old, she became the voice of disenfranchised teenagers everywhere (and what teenager doesn't feel disenfranchised?) as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life.

Fluttering around Hollywood for about a decade, but still an in demand actress, Danes took on the role of intelligence office Carrie Mathison on the critically acclaimed Homeland. With her roles in between shows including Romeo and Juliet, Temple Grandin, and Stardust, and it's easy to see why Claire is always in demand.

It all started for her with a powerful appearance on the original Law and Order. She guest-starred in the season three episode, “Skin Deep” in 1992, where she played a young fashion model who is tied to the death of a photographer who moonlighted in the prostitution business and Danes was one of his young call girls.

8 Sean Astin – Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom


Even when an actor is the right age for a part, the events that can unfold while playing the role can be a little jarring, especially when playing the part of an abused child and your real–life mother is playing the part of the abusive one.

Sean Astin, who would go on to star in The Goonies, Lord Of The Rings, 24, and the upcoming season of Stranger Things, got his start on an after school special opposite his mother, Patty Duke in the TV film, Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom. The film was initially used a learning tool for Social Workers who specialize in familial abuse.

The movie also starred Nancy McKeon as the babysitter who realizes something is terribly wrong in the Reynolds home and realizes Brian might be getting abused by his mother. *Interesting tidbit* - Astin was unable to cry during filming of an intense scene, until his mother and co-star essentially told him all of these people are counting on him and she took a chance on him and bam! Instant waterworks.

7 Kristen Stewart – Speak


It's hard to think about a world, pre-Twilight, pre-sexualized, pre-divisive fan base Kristen Stewart. But true enough, there was simply a little girl aspiring to be an actress once, before she was cast as Bella Swan, and a bajillion fans of the Stephenie Meyer series took to the internet to voice their opinions about it.

Stewart started to gain traction when she starred in Panic Room, alongside a woman who knows a thing or two about young roles – Jodie Foster.

But her performance in Speak, right before she became a household name showcased her dramatic chops, as she played a young girl who was raped by an older boy and chose to be a selective mute. She continues to be haunted by her victimization even as her friend starts to date the rapist and she has to find the strength to speak up about what happened on the night of her rape.

6 Elle Fanning – Law And Order: SVU “Cage”


By default, child actors are thrust into situations that make them too young for their roles, whether they’re playing older, playing sultry, or are just victims on horrifying true life events.

While Dakota Fanning made a name for herself in the film I Am Sam, her sister Elle’s biggest break would come when she starred in J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. But before that, she had bit parts in her sister’s films, usually playing a younger version of her sister.

The younger Fanning also made appearances on TV shows before her big break sans–Dakota. Most notably on Law And Order: SVU, in the episode “Cage.” One of the few episodes that didn’t feature Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia and instead Stabler and Dani Beck (Connie Nielsen) come into contact with Fanning’s Eden, who was part of a cult of re–birthers, who had severe attachment disorders and is a lot more violent and disturbed than Beck first thought.

5 Cameron Bright – Birth

While not one of the biggest stars on this list, Cameron Bright has been part of both X – Men and Twilight franchises, he certainly has star power, whether it was playing Leech or Alec in those movies. The Vancouver native has been around the business since seven years old and is really just one big blockbuster away from superstardom, if that is something he wants.

Prior to all of that though, he was already showcasing his dramatic chops in the film, Birth. Bright co-starred with the statuesque beauty, Nicole Kidman whose first husband, a college professor who doesn't believe in reincarnation dies and guess what? You're right - he is reincarnated as the ten year old Bright who now has to spend the movie convincing Kidman of who he really is.

While that's a strange enough topic for a movie, there's even a scene where Bright and Kidman share a bath together, which stirred a bit of controversy at screenings and even boos at the then popular Kidman.

4 Rosario Dawson – Kids


Rosario Dawson has been all over Hollywood in all kinds of roles. She has played the love interest, the domineering pimp, a damsel in distress, even a manic-pixie-dream-girl in Clerks 2. Currently, Dawson is roaming all over the Marvel Netflix Universe as the Night Nurse, Claire Temple.

It all started for Dawson in 1995 when she was just 15 years old in Kids, as Ruby, a girl who talks openly and graphically about the sex she's having, sometimes not remembering what she's done exactly or with whom.

The movie has acquired a massive cult following over the years and helped propel not Rosario but Chloe Sevigny to the top of the food chain in Hollywood, showcasing a side of youth culture seldom seen in films to that point, or at least an honest, raw, and promiscuous side.

3 Dominique Swain – Lolita


One of the most controversial novels ever written, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov tells the tale of a Literature professor’s lust for a 12 year old girl. While that might sound like a Law and Order episode waiting to happen, the novel is actually one of the most beloved of the 20th century.

The story has been adapted into several plays and most notably a film by the lauded over director, Stanley Kubrick. But erotic filmmaker Adrianne Lynne also decided to tackle the subject matter in the 1997 film starring Jeremy Irons as Humbert Humbert and a 15 year old Dominique Swain as Lolita.

There are plenty of illicit scenes in the film, Lolita straddling the professor, Humbert carrying a passed out Lolita to bed. Her entrance might be the most explicit - sitting under sprinklers with her mid-pubescent underwear showing as she's getting soaked. In a list full of young roles - this one might be one of the most illegal.

2 Atticus Schaffer – Unborn


About to start its ninth season, The Middle has been a staple of ABC’s comedy lineup for those years. Atticus Schaffer has been a part of the cast the whole time, playing Brick, the youngest of the Heck clan. His real life osteogenesis imperfecta causes him to have brittle bones and leave him smaller than his 19 years, allowing him to play a second grader at 12 years old when the show started.

He has also forged a successful voice acting career, lending his talents to Disney shows like Star vs. The Forces Of Evil and The Lion Guard.

Right before The Middle started, Schaffer starred in The Unborn, a film that is probably known more for its poster; Odette Yustman standing in her underwear. But the movie featured Schaffer as Matty, a boy who Yustman’s Casey Beldon babysits for, but is also possessed by the spirit of Casey’s unborn twin brother.

1 Ezra Miller – We Need To Talk About Kevin


Life is about to start moving fast for Ezra Miller, really fast. The guy has cameoed in two DC movies and will be starring in not just Justice League, but in his own, very soon in Flashpoint. With memorable roles in Trainwreck and Fantastic Beasts, it’s clear the Hoboken, New Jersey native’s card is about to be filled constantly with all kinds of roles to play.

But while a character like Barry Allen is a fun loving hotshot, Miller played not one, but two creepy kids who were nothing but pure terror before his fame began to take off. First the kid was in a little seen indie flick, Afterschool, where there is a constant question of whether he killed two of his fellow classmates.

But there was no question about how dangerous Miller was as Kevin Khatchadourian in We Need To Talk About Kevin, as the film wastes no time in revealing there was a dangerous incident that the boy committed, and as revealed in flashbacks, how he simply enjoyed hurting people.

More in Entertainment