Jemma Wolfe

Senior ANDY Editor


From Shirley Temple to Dakota Fanning, child stars are phenomena that have long fascinated both film lovers and the general public. There’s something about seeing a show-stealing kid on screen that both amazes us for their juvenile professionalism and tugs at our heartstrings.

Our generation has grown up with a larger group of child stars than ever before: franchises such as the Mickey Mouse Club and the Olsen twins Mary-Kate and Ashley are evidence of the huge commercial strength and cultural following that young performers can generate.

What happens, though, when child stars grow up? Navigating the adult world is often not as easy for child stars who were denied “normal” childhoods and were thrust into the spotlight long before they could even spell the word. Young celebrities’ descent into depression and addiction is, sadly, an all-too-common story.

A recent article from the UK’s Daily Mail revealed the plight of former Star Wars child star Jake Lloyd, who claims that his role as Anakin Skywalker ruined his life. “Other children were really mean to me … They would make the sound of the light saber every time they saw me,” the article quoted him as saying. While I’m inclined to laugh at his complaints, there’s truth to the fact that returning to normality after shooting to stardom is no easy feat. For those like Lloyd who were compelled to retire from acting at an early age, their roles continue to haunt them long after principal photography has wrapped.

Macaulay Culkin is an infamous example of a child star gone wrong. Culkin, who rocketed to fame with the Home Alone series, was in fewer and fewer successful films as he aged and has received more publicity recently for his drug addictions than for his professional work. Despite his long relationship with successful actress Mila Kunis, her professional ambition evidently didn’t rub off on Culkin; popular speculation pins him as a meth head.

Growing Pains child star Kirk Cameron has recently been slammed for his homophobic tirade on Piers Morgan Tonight. The classic ‘80s sitcom actor said, “I think that it's ... unnatural. I think that it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.” Cameron is yet another former child star who has come under fire for bizarre behavior rather than professional achievements.

As a kid, one of my all-time favourite movies was the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. Its 12-year-old star – a fresh-faced Lindsay Lohan – commanded my attention in her roles as both Hallie and Annie and made me forever revere red hair, twins and the magic of summer camp. The Lohan of 2012, however, is a far cry from the innocent pre-teen she once played. Drugs, D.U.I.’s, drastic body modifications, jail time and rehab have plagued this previously pristine child star and put a permanent dent in her career and reputation.

Maybe it’s the lack of regular childhoods, too much money and too little guidance, or the pressures of living up to the success of their juvenile selves, that mess up former child stars. Whatever the reason, it’s disillusioning to watch performers I once looked up to disintegrate so drastically.

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