It’s an established fact that some of the biggest stars in Hollywood now started off their acting careers as child stars. Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Stewart, the “Harry Potter” trio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling – just to name a few.
However, the transition from child stars to Hollywood A-listers is no piece of cake, there are those who slipped through the crack over the years or opted for calmer, paparazzi-free lives post-child stardom.
Below we list down former child stars who dominated the acting world in their chubby-cheeked and doe-eyed days. Let’s find out if they’re still part of Tinseltown or have gone on to non-acting ventures.
We bet most younger movie-lovers only know Ron Howard as the director of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and had no idea that the 66-year-old filmmaker was a child actor, long before he was a Hollywood A-lister who directs movies starring Chris Hemsworth (“Rush”, “In the Heart of the Sea”) and Tom Holland (“In the Heart of the Sea” again).
Howard made his acting debut in an uncredited role in “Frontier Woman”, before landing his first credited role in 1959’s “The Journey”. (He was a little boy who went by Ronny Howard then). In 1977, he made his feature directorial debut with “Grand Theft Auto”. Since then he’s done a few acting jobs, but focused more on staying behind the camera, churning out movies almost yearly throughout the 1980s until now. His latest movie is this year’s “Hillbilly Elegy”, starring Glenn Close and Amy Adams.
His eldest daughter, 39-year-old Bryce Dallas Howard, is also an exceptional actress-director, starting off with smaller roles since 1989’s “Parenthood” until now leading the “Jurassic World” franchise alongside Chris Pratt, as well as starring in popular shows like “Black Mirror” and “The Mandalorian”.
Noelle and Cali Sheldon
“Friends” fans would find these twins’ names familiar! The twins shared their debut role as Emma Geller-Greene (seen above – left pic – with their “mommy” Rachel) in the eighth season of the popular TV series. No longer babies, the twins celebrated their eighteenth birthday last 17 June.
They’ve continued acting since their small screen debut, appearing mostly in short films in the past decade. They broke onto the big screen last year, in Jordan Peele’s “Us” (right pic above), playing the Tyler twins, Becca and Lindsey.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
|(Photo source: The Everett Collection | AP Images)|
Speaking of shared debut role, there’s another pair of twins who did that before the Sheldons. Arguably the biggest twin (and tween) stars of the 1990s, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen kicked off their acting careers playing Michelle Tanner in the popular TV series “Full House”, portraying the character from infancy until age 9 in a total of 191 episodes from 1987 to 1995.
They gained fame as ‘the Olsen twins’ through their various TV movies and video series throughout the 1990s, using their identical looks (though they previously claimed that they are indeed fraternal twins) to play cute characters who love playing switcheroo. “Two of a Kind”, “It Takes Two”, and “Switching Goals” are some examples.
They never quite made it as silver screen stars, however. Their 2004 film “New York Minute” was a box office bomb. Ashley quit acting and started focusing more on their fashion lines. Mary-Kate, though also involved in their fashion business, continued appearing in movies and TV series up until 2013, in which she made an appearance as herself in the documentary “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s”.
As seen in the photos above, the twins have grown from little actresses to now 34-year-old influential figures in the fashion industry. Achieving success at such a young age (their adolescent and tween years were really their peak) did take a toll on their mental health, especially Mary-Kate’s, but the twins are gradually doing better after leaving their acting lives behind. Now another Olsen has taken on the actress title in the family – their younger sister Elizabeth, best known as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise.
Blake and Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit
“Full House” was the debut platform not just for one pair of twins, but two! Other than the Olsens, brothers Blake and Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit also got into acting through the show. From age 2, they played Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky’s twin sons, Nicky and Alex Katsopolis.
Unlike the Olsen twins, however, Blake and Dylan did briefly reprise their roles for Netflix’s “Fuller House”, the sequel to the original 1990s sitcom, which ran for five seasons from 2016 to 2020. They appeared only in the first season, most likely with no plans for further involvement since the twins did not continue to pursue acting after their “Full House” gig.
That’s not to say they’ve left Hollywood completely. According to Good Housekeeping, now 30-year-old Dylan has gone on to become a successful foley artist, providing sound effects for shows such as “Castle Rock”, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and “Game of Thrones”, the latter which earned him three Emmy awards. Blake, who did various jobs previously, including as a firefighter, has started taking part as a foley mixer on some of the shows and also livestreams video games on Twitch.
Dylan and Cole Sprouse
|(Photo source: Walt Disney Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock; Invision/AP/Shutterstock)|
The 1990s-2000s were the eras of twin child stars, it seems, because here we have another set of identical twins who made their acting debut together and practically grew up onscreen playing, well, twins. Before they were Disney stars, Dylan and Cole Sprouse were Patrick Kelly on ABC sitcom “Grace Under Fire”. Yes, it’s another shared debut role as an infant. Like the Olsen twins, the Sprouse twins took turns playing the role throughout the show’s run from 1993 to 1998.
Their first big screen appearance was also a shared role, playing Julian McGrath in 1999’s “Big Daddy”. They continued to appear in movies, mostly direct-to-videos, through the 2000s, but it is on the Disney channel that their career truly thrived. They’re most known for portraying Zack and Cody Martin in “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” and “The Suit Life on Deck”, as well as reprising the roles in other Disney shows, such as “That’s So Raven”, “The Wizards of Waverly Place” and “Hannah Montana.”
Now 28-year-old, the brothers have taken a break from playing twins onscreen. In fact, they’ve been taking on separate projects. Dylan has three movies lined up for 2020, “After We Collided”, “Turandot” and “Tyger Tyger”, though the latter two are delayed now. Cole’s last movie work was the starring role in 2019’s “Five Feet Apart”. He’s currently more focused on portraying Jughead Jones in the TV series adaptation of “Riverdale”.
Tia and Tamera Mowry
|(Photo source: NME)|
We promise, they’re the last twin siblings on this list. Unlike the other twins above, the now 42-year-old pair first ventured into acting at age 13 in separate TV series (“Dangerous Women” for Tia, “Flesh ‘n’ Blood” for Tamera”), though the episodes they were in were both released in 1991. A year later, they appeared in an episode of “Full House”, but it was their roles as Tia Landry and Tamera Campbell in “Sister, Sister” from 1994 to 1999 that really boosted their acting careers.
They made their feature film debut together in 2002’s “The Hot Chick” but they haven’t exactly made a successful shift to the big screen. They did continue to star – sometimes together, sometimes separately – in TV shows and TV movies throughout the 1990s until now.
Tia also goes by Tia Dashon Mowry-Hardrict after marrying her “Hollywood Horror” co-star Cory Hardrict in 2008, with whom she now has two children. Meanwhile, Tamera Darvette Mowry-Housley tied the knot with journalist and former professional baseball player Adam Housley in 2011. The couple has two kids and like her sister, Tamera’s first child is a son, followed by a daughter.
Whenever a ‘where are they now’ article on child stars is written, Macaulay Caulkin is a staple on it, so much so that we feel obliged to include him here even though for the past few years he’s been slowly getting back into acting again.
The 40-year-old has had a few rough years post-child stardom. But he is now in a happy relationship with former Disney star Brenda Song, having been together since 2017. They got together seven years after he ended his relationship with Mila Kunis, whom he dated since 2002 – the same year that his four-year marriage with actress Rachel Miner ended.
While most movie fans would recognise him from “Home Alone” or “Richie Rich”, Culkin actually made his acting debut in 1985 TV movie, “The Midnight Hour”. His appeared in his first feature film three years later in “Rocket Gibraltar”. He gained fame with 1990’s “Home Alone”, starring as Kevin McCallister, a role which he reprised for the 1992 sequel, “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”, and will be reprising again for the upcoming “Home Alone” movie on Disney+. His more recent prolific roles include starring in Seth Green’s “Changeland” and the upcoming 10th season of “American Horror Story”.
Since we mentioned Brenda Song above, let’s take a look at what this 32-year-old actress is doing post-Disney. Her most recent work is lending her voice to this year’s direct-to-DVD 3D-animated film “Bobbleheads: The Movie.” She’s also recently appeared as herself in the 8 November episode of “The Eric Andre Show”. She currently stars as Madison Maxwell in Hulu’s “Dollface”, which was renewed for a second season back in January. Boyfriend Macaulay Culkin guest starred in the series, making it their second work together in 2019, as she also had a role in “Changeland” (pictured on the right above).
Personal life-wise, she dated fellow Disney child star Miley Cyrus’ musician brother Trace from 2010 to 2017, before she began dating Culkin. Career-wise, Song started out as a child fashion model in the early 1990s, before moving on to commercials. She made her feature film debut in 1996’s “Santa with Muscles” as a kid named Susan. In her next movie, 1997’s “Leave It to Beaver, she once again played a Susan (pictured on the left above). After signing her deal with Disney in 2002, she went on to star in “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”. She made her shift to mainstream movies in 2010, appearing in several movies since, with her latest starring role being Netflix’s “Secret Obsession”. At the same time, she’s remained active on the small screen, starring in shows like “Dads”, “Pure Genius” and “Amphibia” over the years.
Like Song, despite rising to fame as a Disney child star, Hilary Duff’s fame post-Disney didn’t quite reach the heights that others like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez did. That’s not all bad, however, since it could be contributed to her more wholesome public image. The 33-year-old’s celebrity life certainly isn’t as scandalous as her fellow peers, as she didn’t twerk in a “nude” getup at the 2013 MTV VMAs or date a both universally-loved-and-hated Canadian teen heartthrob.
After making her film debut as an adorable little witch in 1998’s “Casper Meets Wendy” and becoming a teen idol through playing the title character of Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire”, Duff went on to star in various movies and TV shows. She continued being active in acting even after tying the knot with Mike Comrie from 2010 to 2016, with whom she is co-parenting son Luca, and married singer Matthew Koma last year. Her and Koma’s daughter, Banks Violet Bair, was born in 2018. She was last seen starring as Tate in 2019’s “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” and will be seen reprising her Lizzie McGuire role in the reboot that’s coming to Disney Plus.
For a while there in the 2000s, Amanda Bynes seemed to be on a trajectory towards Hollywood stardom, as she could be seen fronting movies like “She’s the Man”, opposite the back-then newbie Channing Tatum, and “Easy A”, alongside Emma Stone. Unfortunately, the latter turned out to be her last big screen works. She attributed the aforementioned movies as her reason for quitting acting, saying that she did not like her appearances as and portrayals of the characters.
Rising to fame as a Nickelodeon child star (can you hear her “Thaaaaat’s me!” ringing in your head?) in the mid-1990s, following her debut at age 7 in a Buncha Crunch commercial, everything was going well for the budding actress until her breakdown circa 2010. She hasn’t done any acting work since. A Screen Rant article from last June revealed that the 34-year-old, who is now married to a man named Paul Michael, is focusing on her mental health and hopes to continue her education as well as return to acting some day. She voiced her intention to take on acting again back in 2018, though she has yet to make any comeback, be it on the small screen or the silver screen.