- Some child stars struggle to keep up their careers, while others choose to ditch Hollywood.
- Carrie Henn, who played Newt in “Aliens,” never acted again and became a teacher.
- Other recognizable child stars went on to become veterinarians, fashion designers, or car salesmen.
Jennette McCurdy started acting in 2000 when she was 8 years old, but her big break came with the 2007 Nickelodeon series “iCarly.”
McCurdy made her on-screen debut with a 2000 episode of “Mad TV’ when she was just 8 years old, and she acted steadily after that, appearing in “Malcolm and the Middle,” “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” and “Tiger Cruise.”
But, of course, she’s best known for her role as Sam Puckett in “iCarly” and its spin-off “Sam & Cat.” The show began in 2007 when she was 15, and she played Sam for seven more years, through 2014.
McCurdy confirmed in March 2021 that she has retired from acting. She said she is “so ashamed” of her previous roles.
After “Sam & Cat” ended in 2014, McCurdy appeared in sporadic episodes of shows, and she starred in the sci-fi series “Between,” which was canceled after two seasons in 2016.
She returned to acting in 2020 for a one-woman show she wrote called “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” Although the show continued through 2021, she called it a one-time thing during a 2021 episode of her podcast “Empty Inside.”
“I quit a few years ago to try my hand at writing and directing — it’s going great. I quit a few years ago because I initially didn’t want to do it,” she said.
“My experience with acting is, I’m so ashamed of the parts I’ve done in the past. I resent my career in a lot of ways. I feel so unfulfilled by the roles that I played and felt like it was the most cheesy, embarrassing. I did the shows that I was on from like 13 to 21, and by 15, I was already embarrassed,” she continued. “My friends at 15, they’re not like, ‘Oh, cool, you’re on this Nickelodeon show.’ It was embarrassing.”
In 2022, she’s releasing her memoir, also called “I’m Glad My Mom Died.”
Amanda Bynes starred in her very own sketch show, “The Amanda Show,” starting when she was just 13.
Bynes began acting when she was just 10 years old, as part of the Nickelodeon sketch show “All That.” She was so popular that she received her own entire show, “The Amanda Show,” by the age of 13. It ended in 2002.
After that, she explored a successful film career with roles in movies like “What a Girl Wants,” “Big Fat Liar,” “She’s the Man,” and “Sydney White.” Bynes also starred in the WB sitcom “What I Like About You” from 2002 to 2006.
“I found her to be so unbelievably refreshing. She’s so, so talented, so funny. Working with her, I felt like it was what Lucille Ball must have been like early on. She was that good,” said Kathie Lee Gifford in 2013 of working with a young Bynes.
Bynes, who announced in 2010 that she was retiring from acting, just filed to end the conservatorship she’s been under since 2013.
Bynes, who is now 35, announced her retirement on Twitter when she was just 24 years old.
“Being an actress isn’t as fun as it may seem,” read the tweet. “”If I don’t love something anymore, I stop doing it. I don’t love acting anymore, so I’ve stopped doing it. I know 24 is a young age to retire, but you heard it here first.”
Two years later, Bynes was repeatedly in the headlines for multiple arrests. She was charged with a DUI after a 2012 incident, but the charges were later dismissed and she was given three years probation. Again, she was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2014, but the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office decided not to bring charges. She also made headlines for erratic posts on social media regarding Rihanna, Drake, and the NYPD.
After Bynes started a fire in a stranger’s driveway in 2013, she was hospitalized involuntarily for 72 hours for mental evaluation, and Bynes’ parents asked the court to create a temporary conservatorship.
In February 2022, the actress filed to end her conservatorship, according to her lawyer. A hearing is set for March.
Mara Wilson is best remembered for playing the titular character in 1996 film “Matilda.”
Wilson was just 6 years old when she made her on-screen debut in “Mrs. Doubtfire” in 1993. In the next seven years, she racked up an impressive nine more roles, in movies like “Matilda,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “Thomas and the Magic Railroad.”
Wilson, now 34, retired from acting in 2000 at age 13, although she continues to do voiceover work. She’s since become an author and journalist.
After her role in “Thomas and the Magic Railroad,” Wilson, then 13, decided to step back from the acting scene. She attended NYU to study film and graduated in 2009. She’s since published a memoir, “Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame,” and written a play called “Sheeple.”
Even though she said in March 2012 that she was done with film acting, she appeared in an episode of “Broad City” in 2016 and voiced a character in the third season of “BoJack Horseman.” She also voices a recurring character in “Big Hero 6: The Series” and multiple characters in “Helluva Boss.”
According to Wilson’s website, you can also find her writing on Elle.com, McSweeney’s, The New York Times, Reductress, Vanity Fair.com, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, Cracked, Talkhouse Film, and The Toast.
“It was cute when 10-year-olds sent me letters saying they were in love with me. It was not when 50-year-old men did,” she wrote.
Shirley Temple began acting at age 3 and became Hollywood’s biggest box-office draw in the ’30s.
Who hasn’t heard of Shirley Temple? From the inescapable “Animal Crackers in My Soup” commercials to starring as Heidi in “Heidi,” Temple appeared in 43 movies over a 17-year period.
By 1950, at age 22, Temple had officially retired from acting. She proceeded to leave Hollywood behind for politics.
By the time Temple was 12 years old, she had appeared in 43 different films. But just 10 years later, at age 22, she retired from film altogether, drastically changing her career path.
Temple ran for Congress in 1967, but lost. However, just two years later she was appointed to represent the US at the United Nations. She then became the US ambassador to Ghana in 1974, holding the position until 1976, when she was appointed chief of protocol of the US, a position she held for a year.
She returned to diplomacy in 1989 when she was appointed by President Reagan as the ambassador to Czechoslovakia until 1992.
Temple died in 2014 at age 85, due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Alisan Porter is most famous for her role as Curly Sue in the 1991 movie of the same name.
Porter appeared on “Star Search” and won, making her the youngest winner ever — she was only 5. Five years later, she starred in “Curly Sue,” an episode of “The Golden Girls,” and TV movie “When You Remember Me.”
After the ’90s, Porter sparingly appeared on TV and film, and concentrated on her schoolwork. She re-entered the spotlight in 2016 as a singer on “The Voice,” which she ended up winning.
Porter, 40, appeared in a few things here and there in the 2000s, but mainly focused on living a normal life. She resurfaced on the 10th season of “The Voice,” where she wowed the judges — and then shocked them by revealing that she was Curly Sue.
Porter, now a mom of two, has been candid about her struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, and has been sober since 2007.
Porter also runs a blog with her partner Celia Behar, called Lil’ Mamas, and offers voice coaching.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen first stole our hearts as Michelle Tanner on “Full House,” and proceeded to build a media empire.
The Olsen twins were infants when they began starring on “Full House” in 1987, and were 9 years old when it ended. They also starred in multiple direct-to-video specials, like “You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s…” and “The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley,” plus direct-to-video movies such as “Holiday in the Sun” and “Our Lips are Sealed.”
They made their way back to network TV with shows “So Little Time” and “Two of a Kind,” but neither lasted more than a season.
The twins also starred in 2004 rom-com “New York Minute,” which was their first theatrical release since 1995’s “It Takes Two.” “New York Minute” also was the last thing they acted in together.
The Olsen twins are still famous, but now it’s for their clothing lines and personal lives, not their acting. Mary-Kate continued to act after “New York Minute,” but both have now retired.
The twins, 35, are still in the public eye. Mary-Kate continued to act — she was in 2011’s “Beastly,” and had a recurring role on season three of “Weeds” in 2007. But both twins announced in 2012 that they were officially retiring from acting to focus on their fashion line, Elizabeth and James, which they launched in 2007.
Kay Panabaker made her on-screen debut at age 12. She’s best remembered by her roles as Nikki in “Summerland,” and Jenny in the 2009 “Fame” remake.
Kay Panabaker, often alongside her sister Danielle, appeared in a few Disney Channel shows and movies, including “American Dragon Jake Long,” “Phil of the Future,” and “Read It and Weep.”
She attended school while filming, and graduated from high school at age 13.
Panabaker hasn’t acted since 2012 — her last role was voice-acting in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3.” She’s now an animal keeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Panabaker, 31, studied zoology at UCLA, and has subsequently began working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
Her older sister Danielle, on the other hand, has continued to act and is currently starring as Caitlin Snow on The CW’s “The Flash.” She made her directorial debut during the show’s fifth season.
Ariana Richards will forever be remembered for her role as Lex Murphy in 1993 sci-fi blockbuster “Jurassic Park.”
Richards was 14 years old when she starred in “Jurassic Park” as Lex, one of the grandchildren of Jurassic Park’s creator John Hammond. Even though it was her first big role, she had started acting six years prior, in a 1987 episode of “The Golden Girls.”
After that, she appeared in multiple made-for-TV movies, and made a cameo appearance in “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”
Richards made her last on-screen appearance in 2001 in direct-to-video movie “Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.” She’s now more focused on painting.
In 2001, Richards was 22. Before her role in “Tremors,” she had already taken a three-year break, graduating from Skidmore College in 2001.
Richards, 41, is more focused on her art nowadays, and runs her own gallery. She did make a return to TV in 2013, with a role in “Battledogs,” but it was just a one-time thing.
She married Mark Bolton in January 2013. The couple have a daughter.
Lisa Jakub played Lydia in 1993 comedy “Mrs. Doubtfire,” as well as Alicia in the 1996 disaster epic “Independence Day.”
Jakub starred alongside fellow child star Mara Wilson in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” when she was 15. Her first role though was in 1985 drama “Eleni,” when she was only 7.
You might also recognize her from disaster movie “Independence Day,” or rom-com “The Beautician and the Beast.”
Jakub retired from acting at age 22, and she is now a successful author and yoga instructor.
Jakub’s last role was in “The Royal Diaries: Isabel — Jewel of Castilla,” a TV movie from 2000.
Now, Jakub, 43, is focused on her blog, motivational speaking, and yoga. She created a yoga class specifically for veterans. She’s also written two books: a memoir, “You Look Like That Girl,” in 2015, and a book detailing her struggles with anxiety, “Not Just Me,” in 2017.
In her personal life, Jakub is married to longtime partner Jeremy Jones.
Danny Lloyd played the supernaturally gifted Danny Torrance in 1980 horror classic “The Shining.”
In a movie with no shortage of scares, Danny Torrance provides quite a few unsettling moments.
Lloyd is now a biology professor at a community college in Kentucky, and he rarely speaks publicly.
Lloyd, 49, told The Guardian in 2017 that he’s a biology professor in Kentucky. He’s also married with four kids. When asked if he had any regrets about doing “The Shining,” he said, “No. I don’t regret trying acting. When I decided to stop, I don’t regret that either. At the end of the day, it’s not a huge deal.”
He also had a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in the 2019 “Shining” sequel “Doctor Sleep” as a spectator at a baseball game — the character of Danny was taken over by Ewan McGregor.
Peter Ostrum’s first and only role was as Charlie Bucket in 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”
Ostrum was 12 years old when he was cast as Charlie in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” He was discovered by talent agents in Cleveland while acting in a play. After a relatively lengthy casting process, he was told to be in Munich, Germany, in the next 10 days to begin filming.
The studio was prepared to offer Ostrum a three-movie deal, but he declined.
Now, Ostrum is a veterinarian in upstate New York.
Ostrum, 64, decided to ditch the acting business after “Willy Wonka” — it just wasn’t for him. He decided to keep his role as Charlie private from almost everyone in his life, including his wife, who he didn’t tell until right before she was going to meet his mother.
He is now a veterinarian.
“Acting was fine, but I wanted something more steady, and the key is to find something that you love doing, and that’s what my profession has given to me,” Ostrum told the American Veterinary Medical Association in an interview in 2000.
Even though he keeps a low profile, he does stay involved with his community, and goes around to public schools to talk about his time on “Willy Wonka,” and his time as a vet.
Carrie Henn’s first and last movie role was Newt in 1986’s “Aliens.”
Henn was only 9 years old when she was cast as space orphan Newt in “Aliens” — and she had no prior acting experience. The film’s director, James Cameron, said, “There was a quiet, soulful quality that I was looking for with the character. [Henn] had it.”
Even though she didn’t love acting, she was talented. Henn ended up winning a Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor for her performance as Newt.
Henn hasn’t acted since 1986, though she has appeared as herself in a few specials about the making of “Aliens.” She became a teacher instead.
Henn, 45, never appeared as an actress again after “Aliens.” She instead became a teacher and has no regrets.
“I would miss being in the classroom,” Henn told People in 2001, “I love being in there with the kids.”
She did make an appearance at the Comic Con 30th Anniversary panel for “Aliens” in 2016, alongside cast members Sigourney Weaver and Bill Paxton.
Jake Lloyd appeared in four episodes of “ER” in 1996, but his breakthrough role was Anakin Skywalker in 1999’s “Star Wars Episode I — The Phantom Menace.”
Eight-year-old Lloyd had some big shoes to fill when he was cast as Anakin Skywalker — he had to play a sweet, innocent kid, but portray enough darkness to eventually convincingly grow up to become Darth Vader.
After “Phantom Menace” in 1999, Lloyd reprised his role as Anakin’s voice in five more video games. He also had a role in “Madison,” which was filmed in 2000 but wasn’t released until 2005.
Lloyd stopped acting by age 12, and he has been treated for mental-health issues in the years since.
In a 2012 interview, Lloyd said kids at school bullied him after “The Phantom Menace,” and that he felt so much vitriol towards the film that he destroyed all of his “Star Wars” memorabilia.
He returned to the role for video games but ultimately left acting behind and attended Columbia College in Chicago, where he studied film.
TMZ reported that Lloyd was arrested in South Carolina in 2015 following a high-speed car chase. He was charged with alleged “reckless driving, failure to stop, resisting arrest, and driving without a license.”
In 2016, TMZ reported that Lloyd was reportedly transferred from jail to a psychiatric facility, after an alleged diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, which was confirmed with a statement from his family in 2020. He also has anosognosia, which is defined as a “lack of insight” of symptoms.
Ross Malinger stole our hearts in “Sleepless in Seattle” as 9-year-old Jonah Baldwin.
Malinger had been acting for a few years when he was cast as the precocious matchmaker Jonah in “Sleepless in Seattle” — he even flies across the country to help his dad get a date with Annie (Meg Ryan).
Other roles in the ’90s included multi-episode appearances in “Good Advice,” “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher,” “The Simple Life,” and “Party of Five.” He also had a memorable “Seinfeld” appearance as a boy who had a crush on Elaine.
But perhaps most notably (besides “Sleepless in Seattle”) was his tenure as the voice of TJ Detweiler on “Recess,” an iconic ’90s cartoon. He played TJ for 28 episodes, plus two TV movies.
Malinger retired from acting in 2006, and he is now a car salesman.
The roles started to slow down in the new millenium — in the 2000s, Malinger has just five credits to his name: a TV movie called “Personally Yours,” two “Recess” TV movies, two episodes on “Touched by an Angel,” and his last role in 2006, an episode of “Without a Trace.”