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16 Favorite Child Stars Then and Now

This is going to come out as a bit of a confession. When I first saw Warm Bodies, a zany and adorable zombie love story, I did not realize I had seen the handsome star, Nicholas Hoult, in anything before. It was only when the film landed in the wonderful world of On-Demand that I got that, “Have I seen him in something else?” twitch that had me running to IMDB.

I was shocked when I discovered the actor was the child star from About a Boy all grown up. Nicholas played the sweet, young Marcus Brewer who braved a school talent show to sing “Killing Me Softly” because it might cheer up his Mom. It is such a ripple in time when you see child stars then and now.

Many child stars from the mid- to late-nineties and early 2000′s are still working in the entertainment industry. We are so used to hearing about child stars who went off the deep end, but for every Bynes, Lohan, or Furlong there are many more hard at work and continuing to be involved with cool projects. I root for the success of these child stars as if they were friends I grew up with.

16 Favorite Child Stars Then and Now

  • Child Stars Then and Now 1 of 27
    Child Stars of the 1990's and 200's: Then and Now

    Whatever happened to Curly Sue, Madeline, Matilda? Find out what the child stars of the 1990's and 2000's are up to with a look at child stars then and now. 


    Image Credit: Warner Bros Studios

  • Cast of Now and Then – then 2 of 27

    Now and Then was an absolute girl movie MUST-see when it came out in 1995. Demi Moore, Rita Wilson, Melanie Griffith, and Rosie O'Donnell were cast as the adult versions of the girls in the movie, and up-and-coming child stars were given a big break to shine.


    {Sadly, Ashleigh Aston Moore (far left), who played Chrissy, passed away in 2007.} 


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Gaby Hoffmann – Now 3 of 27

    Gaby Hoffmann is very busy these days. The actress is starring, with Michael Cera, in the indie film Crystal Fairy. She is also in Goodbye World with Adrian Grenier. Both films will be released in 2013. Gaby was recently on HuffPost Live talking about what it was like to work as a child star. When talking about working with director Mel Gibson she mentions how he made her cry. 


    "I think I was acting like a kid instead of a professional actor," she quipped of what she did to set him off. "It happens once in a while when you're a kid actor."


    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Christina Ricci – Now 4 of 27

    It seems like Christina Ricci has never taken a break from acting. She is one of those great examples of child stars who transitioned effortlessly from child to adult roles and just kept on going. She does often remark that she is thrilled not be a child star in today's world. 


    "You know, I made all the mistakes a lot of young stars are making today. I partied, I drank. But during my time there weren't that many photographers around. I had more freedom!" 


    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Thora Birch – Now 5 of 27

    Thora Birch's career was headed for great things. She was to make her debut on Broadway in a production of Dracula in 2010, but four days before her first performance she was shockingly let go. Rumors swirled about why the actress was released from the stage production. The director released a statement revealing it was because of an incident with Thora's father, and not because of Thora's acting abilities. Regardless, the actress was not seen professionally for a few years. She is now in pre-production on a film with Sharon Stone and Rob Schneider.


    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Cast of The Sandlot – Then 6 of 27

    The Sandlot arrived on the big screen in 1993 and I still have friends who quote this film daily. There was just something about the chemistry of the boys in the cast and the love of baseball that made this movie a classic. 


    Image Credit: IMDB, 20th Anniversary DVD 

  • Ham and Squint – Now 7 of 27

    Fans of The Sandlot should be thrilled to know that not only are Ham and Squints doing okay -- they are still buds in real life. This image is from a recent press photo shared by the Minnesota Twins. Actors Patrick Renna (Ham) and Chauncey Leopardi (Squints) are on Twitter if you want to give them a wave. 


    Image Credit: Minnesota Twins

  • Tom Guiry – Now 8 of 27

    I worked with Tom Guiry on a film in 2000 and he was determined to shed his child actor image. In an interview celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Sandlot, Tom reminisces about what it was like working on the movie at the age of 11.


    "I remember everyone being really cool. We were always laughing, and it was so much fun. We'd just have so much fun cause with kids that age it was like going to summer camp."


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Spy Kids – Then 9 of 27

    Spy Kids was a blast when it came out in 2001. A live-action adventure movie geared for the entire family - perfect! The movie was such a hit it yielded several sequels. 


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Alexa Vega – Now 10 of 27

    Alexa Vega has been working non-stop since Spy Kids. Recently she teamed back up with director Robert Rodriguez to make a massive leap into what Alexa calls "owning her sexuality."


    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Daryl Sabara – Now 11 of 27

    Daryl Sabara has been in the acting industry since he was an infant. Seriously. He is actually that kid who was discovered as an infant while his mom was simply walking around Los Angeles. Daryl's very first role was as Murphy Brown's baby on the sitcom Murphy Brown. He has several film projects in the works, and you probably just heard him as a voice actor on Gravity Falls.


    Image Credit: PR Photo

  • Abigail Breslin – Then 12 of 27

    Abigail Breslin was a breakout star in Little Miss Sunshine when it was released in 2006, and should be credited for bringing back headbands and legwarmers.


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Abigail Breslin- Now 13 of 27

    Abigail Breslin has been performing nonstop since Little Miss Sunshine and was most recently seen in the thriller, The Call. In speaking about growing up on the big screen Abigail says:


    "I've been really lucky that people have accepted me growing up a little bit and that I've gotten to do such great characters in the past year. I feel like it's been a pretty smooth transition. I feel really lucky about that and I'm really grateful. But it's been fun."


    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Nicholas Hoult – Then 14 of 27

    Oh look, there is Nicholas Hoult, that sweet boy from About a Boy. The 2002 film also starred Toni Collette and Hugh Grant. 


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Nicholas Hoult – Now 15 of 27

    And here is Nicholas Hoult as a zombie in Warm Bodies. I am still so surprised by how different he looks! Nicholas is currently doing press for the film Jack the Giant Slayer (he plays Jack). In a recent interview he spoke candidly about why he thinks he achieved success as an actor when so many child stars do not. 


    "And that made me think about all of the opportunities that I've had: my brother did this, my sister did that, which got me the agent; my parents were fortunate enough that they could take time off work to drive me to auditions; and I got this break, and that break, and it all melds together."


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Haley Joel Osment – Then 16 of 27

    The Sixth Sense was one of those great audience conspiracy films that was popular around the millennium. If you saw the movie you were in on the twist ending, and you didn't want to ruin the thrill of discovery for anyone else. I remember asking people if they had seen The Sixth Sense and then treading carefully with conversation if they had not. Haley Joel Osment was age 11 when he made the movie, and was the 2nd youngest actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for a supporting role. 


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Haley Joel Osment – Now 17 of 27

    Haley Joel Osment turned 25 this year and is busy in Hollywood. He just finished work on Alpha House, a pilot with John Goodman. He is also working on development of an indie comedy.


    From Variety, "Sex Ed" revolves around Osment's character who teaches sexual education to a bunch of middle schoolers, despite his own lack of expertise in the field.


     (Random Trivia: Haley Joel Osment also played Murphy Brown's son in the TV Show Murphy Brown.)


    Image Credit: Variety

  • Jake Lloyd – Then 18 of 27

    The world was watching and waiting to find out just who would be cast as the young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode One. It turned out to be Jake Lloyd.


    Casting Call: "Caucasian, 8-9. Anakin is a handsome young boy with extraordinary charm. He has a vulnerability and earnestness that makes him totally disarming. His amazing aptitude for things mechanical, together with his quick wit and physical fitness make him a natural pilot at an early age, maturing into a fighter pilot of exceptional talent. Anakin's resourceful imagination and inventive mind already set him apart from others. OBI WAN KENOBI is later to recognize his innate gifts, becoming his friend and mentor and teaching him the attributes of a Jedi Knight. Anakin is a role model of the highest order, someone every boy would like to be...LEAD."


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Jake Lloyd – Now 19 of 27

    Jake Lloyd is a child actor who was thrust into, well, complete and utter chaos. Being an unknown kid and then suddenly a part of the mega franchise of Star Wars is something no one can ever prepare for, and Jake's childhood was not a blast. After his obligations to to Star Wars were over (these included work on several video games), he and his family decided he would remove himself from the acting world completely. 


    From an interview with MTV five years ago, "None of us really understood exactly how much that film would affect us for the rest of our lives."


    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Jonathan Lipnicki – Then 20 of 27

    It is hard to imagine any other boy than Jonathan Lipnicki as little Ray in Jerry Maguire. Thanks to this movie we all know how much the human head weighs. (This movie is also the reason why I do, "1,2,3, wheee" with my son when we walk on the sidewalk.)


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Jonathan Lipnicki – Now 21 of 27

    Recently Jonathan shared he was almost not in Jerry Maguire. As is often the case in Hollywood casting stories, another child star was originally cast to play the part of Renée Zellweger's son but that actor dropped out of the project. Jonathan was cast in the role and his career took off from there. He took off a few years but is now eagerly working on many projects. He just reached out to an old friend for a bit of career advice.


    "I cold called [Tom Cruise's] office... and I got a response pretty quickly... and within a few months we found a date, I met up with him and I realized it was the perfect time... I needed some guidance... and there's so much I took from that conversation."


    Image Credit: Pacific Coast News

  • Hatty Jones – Then 22 of 27

    Madeline, a movie based on the very successful children's books, was released in 1998, with Hatty Jones starring as Madeline herself. The movie was so popular the name Madeline started a pop culture baby name trend!


    Image Credit: Tristar Pictures, Inc.

  • Hatty Jones – Now 23 of 27

    Hatty Jones would have been much more of a household name if casting odds had been in her favor in 2000. An American filmmaker was just announced as the director of the first Harry Potter film and speculation started to grow about just who would be the young cast. The role of Hermione Granger was between two actresses: Hatty Jones and Emma Watson. 


    Hatty is now a successful stage actress in the UK who also continues to work on many film and TV projects.


    Image Credit: Diamond Management

  • Mara Wilson – Then 24 of 27

    Matilda, released in 1996, is one of those cool and quirky kids movies. Based on a novel by the brilliant Roald Dahl, Matilda tells the story of  an "extraordinary child with ordinary and rather unpleasant parents," and Mara Wilson was the cutie pie that brought it all together.


    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Mara Wilson – Now 25 of 27

    You can find Mara Wilson where all cool people are these days: on the Internet. Mara blogs often at Mara Wilson Writes and her posts have been syndicated in many places. She recently wrote a fantastic piece called 7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy that is a must-read. 


    "Most of you reading this felt pretty disgusting and useless while you were going through puberty. But imagine that people you once relied on and trusted -- as well as millions of people you'd never met, who had previously liked you -- had told you then, "Yeah, it's true. You are exactly as ugly and worthless as you feel."


    Image Credit: Ari Scott, of

  • Alisan Porter – Then 26 of 27

    Curly Sue was released in theatres in 1991 and cast the adorable Alisan Porter as the lead. Alisan landed the role after her huge success on the show Star Search.


    Image Credit: Warner Bros

  • Alisan Porter- Now 27 of 27

    Alisan is now 31, married, and has a one-year-old son and is part of a group mom blog called Lil Mamas. 


    In an open and well written piece she wrote in 2008 she shares, "I often reflect about who exactly I am. It is sometimes hard for other people to see me as anything but Curly Sue. I ask myself if they know I'm a dancer. A choreographer. A teacher. Do they know I write my own music and play with my own band? Do they know I have struggled with addiction and am now proudly a sober woman? Yes, even I didn't escape the child star curse! To me, all these things make up who I truly am."


    Image Credit: Jesse Weiner Photography

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