Some people believe that the key to making it as an actor is to get started as young as possible. However, this isn’t always true; plenty of successful actors didn’t get their starts until later in life. Likewise, achievement as a child actor doesn’t necessarily translate to continued acting success as an adult actor. Some young actors reach their peak as child stars, later either struggling to find the same success or simply choosing to follow another career path. Other child actors, however, go on to long and fruitful careers, transitioning beautifully from childhood roles to adult stardom. Here are just a few Hollywood film stars who were able to turn their achievements as child actors into high profile careers on the A-list.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – In the mid-1990s, Leonardo DiCaprio was the ultimate teen heartthrob, first gaining popularity in 1991 on the television series Growing Pains at 16 years old before establishing himself as a bona fide movie star in 1995’s The Basketball Diaries and 1996’s Romeo + Juliet before his 20th birthday. His career never slowed down, with starring roles in recent blockbuster hits like J. Edgar and Inception proving that he’s still going strong 20 years later.
2. Elizabeth Taylor – With a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Elizabeth Taylor captured hearts around the world in 1944’s National Velvet at 12 years old. From there, she never looked back, landing starring roles throughout the decades, including her iconic role in 1963’s Cleopatra, and remained a red carpet staple until her death in 2011.
3. Natalie Portman – When Natalie Portman caught the eye of audiences and critics alike in her first feature film role as Mathilda in 1994’s Leon: The Professional, she was just 13 years old. She firmly established herself five years later as Queen Amadala in Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace, a role she reprised in the 2002 and 2005 sequels – all while earning a degree in psychology from Harvard. Last year, at age 30, she won her first Academy Award for her leading role in Black Swan.
4. Neil Patrick Harris – From 1989 through 1993, Neil Patrick Harris managed to make nerds look cool playing a teenaged genius/doctor on the series Doogie Houser, M.D., a role he began playing at age 16. After the show wrapped he continued to make various appearances in smaller television and film roles, but turned his attention to developing a successful career in theater. He returned to television in 2005 at 32 years old as the wildly popular character Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, a role that catapulted him back into the spotlight – seemingly for good.
5. Christian Bale – Though not his first role, it was the 1987 Steven Spielberg film Empire on the Sun that truly made Christian Bale a star at age 13. His teenage stardom continued in early 1990’s films like Newsies and Swing Kids. This year, at 38 years old, he wrapped up the final film of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, playing the coveted role as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the summer blockbuster and mega-hit The Dark Knight Rises.
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