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10 Child Actors That Struggled to Handle the Fame

by David Long
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Child stars often capture our hearts with their undeniable talent and charisma on screen. Still, the pressures of fame and the challenges of transitioning to adulthood in the public eye can take a toll on even the most successful young actors.

Despite their struggles, these actors remain beloved figures in pop culture, and their contributions to the industry continue to inspire and entertain audiences worldwide. Let’s look at ten child actors who struggled with the dark side of Hollywood and the pitfalls of celebrity culture.

Related: 10 People Who Only Found Fame After Their Death

10 Macaulay Culkin

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The one and only Macaulay Culkin! You might remember him as the adorable and mischievous Kevin McCallister from the Home Alone franchise. Culkin became an instant sensation in the early ’90s thanks to his charming on-screen persona and impeccable comedic timing.

Unfortunately, Culkin’s rise to fame was accompanied by a tumultuous personal life. He struggled with substance abuse and endured a difficult relationship with his father, who also served as his manager. Culkin’s career began to decline in the late ’90s, and he took a hiatus from acting to focus on his personal life.

These days, Culkin has been sober for many years and has started to make a comeback in Hollywood, with recent roles in shows like American Horror Story and Dollface. He’s also embraced his status as a cultural icon, making hilarious appearances on social media and collaborating with fun brands like Happy Socks.

9 Lindsay Lohan

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Lindsay Lohan was a bright young actress who captured audiences’ hearts with her impressive talent and infectious charisma. She rose to fame in the late ’90s and early 2000s with movies like The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, and Mean Girls.

Lohan’s troubles began in the mid-2000s when she was caught driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This incident marked the start of a downward spiral for the young actress. The paparazzi often captured Lohan’s erratic behavior and substance abuse problem, making her a frequent target of tabloid headlines.

Because of her struggles, Lohan continued to work in Hollywood while her once-promising career began to suffer. She appeared in several poorly received movies and TV shows and was often criticized for her lackluster performances.

In recent years, Lohan has made strides in her personal life, completing court-ordered rehab and working on her sobriety. She has also been actively pursuing a comeback in Hollywood and starred in the hit Netflix rom-com Falling for Christmas.

8 Shia LaBeouf

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Shia LaBeouf is a former child star who first gained attention for his role on the Disney Channel series Even Stevens. He quickly transitioned to the big screen, earning critical acclaim for his performances in movies like Holes and Disturbia.

LaBeouf’s troubles began in 2014 when he was arrested for disorderly conduct. He continued to make headlines for his bizarre behavior and public outbursts, including an incident in which he wore a paper bag on his head to a movie premiere.

In 2017, LaBeouf was arrested for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, leading him to seek treatment for alcoholism. He also faced allegations of emotional and physical abuse from his former girlfriend, singer FKA Twigs. In response to these allegations, LaBeouf took a step back from acting and focused on his mental health.

In 2020, he wrote and starred in a deeply personal film called Honey Boy, inspired by his experiences as a child actor and his relationship with his father. Despite the controversies and setbacks, LaBeouf remains a talented actor willing to confront his personal demons and work on himself.

7 Amanda Bynes

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A rising star in Hollywood in the early 2000s, Amanda Bynes had a string of successful TV shows and movies under her belt. Bynes’s career was derailed by personal struggles and legal issues that began in the mid-2000s. She was arrested several times for DUIs and other traffic violations, and her behavior became increasingly erratic and concerning.

Bynes’s troubles extended to her personal life, with reports of substance abuse and mental health issues. She had several public meltdowns, including a bizarre incident where she set fire to a neighbor’s driveway. In 2014, Bynes was placed under a conservatorship and received treatment for her mental health issues. She later revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was taking medication to manage her symptoms.

In recent years, Bynes has remained largely out of the public eye, focusing on her health and personal life. She has also expressed interest in returning to acting, but it’s unclear if or when she will make a comeback.

6 Corey Feldman

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Corey Feldman was a popular child actor in the ‘80s, with roles in hit movies like Stand by Me, The Goonies, and The Lost Boys. Unfortunately, Feldman’s success as a child actor was accompanied by a dark side of Hollywood, which he has spoken out about in recent years. Feldman claims powerful men in the industry sexually abused him and fellow child star Corey Haim and that their experiences led to lifelong trauma and addiction issues.

Feldman’s personal life has been tumultuous, with struggles with addiction and legal issues due to his previous abuse. Thankfully, he has managed to maintain a successful career in entertainment, with roles in movies and TV shows, and a successful music career as well.

Feldman’s sexual accusations have been met with both support and skepticism. Still, he has remained steadfast in bringing attention to the issue of child abuse in Hollywood. He’s also actively advocated for child actors’ rights and protections.

Despite his challenges, Feldman remains a respected figure in the industry, with a legacy that includes some of the most beloved movies of the 1980s. He continues to use his platform to shed light on important issues in Hollywood and to advocate for change.

5 Jodie Sweetin

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Jodie Sweetin rose to fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s as Stephanie Tanner on the hit TV show Full House. She was beloved by audiences for her spunky personality and endearing character.

But Sweetin’s transition to adulthood was not easy, and she struggled with addiction and personal issues in her early years. Sweetin’s addiction issues led to several setbacks, including a stint in rehab and a failed marriage. She eventually found her way to recovery and has been sober for many years.

In recent years, Sweetin has made a comeback in Hollywood, reprising her role as Stephanie Tanner on the Full House reboot Fuller House. Despite her challenges, Sweetin has managed to maintain a successful career and become a role model for others struggling with addiction and mental health issues. Her perseverance and positive attitude have made her a beloved Hollywood figure.

4 Gary Coleman

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You know him from the hit TV show Different Stokes. Known for his witty one-liners and charming personality, Gary Coleman was a beloved child actor who rose to fame in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Like many of the other kids on this list, a difficult personal life accompanied Coleman’s success as a child actor. He suffered from a congenital kidney condition, which stunted his growth and required him to undergo multiple surgeries. He also had a strained relationship with his parents, who were accused of mismanaging his earnings and exploiting him for their own financial gain.

Coleman’s career began to decline in the ’90s, and he struggled to find work in Hollywood. He also faced legal issues, including a lawsuit against his parents and a 1999 arrest for assault. Despite his setbacks, Coleman remained a beloved figure in pop culture and continued to work in entertainment throughout his life. He appeared in several TV shows and movies and even ran for governor of California in 2003.

Tragically, Coleman passed away in 2010 at the age of 42 due to complications from his kidney condition. His legacy as a talented and beloved child star lives on, and his contributions to the entertainment industry will not be forgotten.

3 Jonathan Taylor Thomas

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He was a heartthrob for every teenage girl in the ’90s. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, or JTT as he was affectionately known, is best known for his role as Randy Taylor on the hit TV show Home Improvement. Thomas’s success led to many movie roles, including parts in The Lion King and Tom and Huck. He was also a frequent guest on talk shows and appeared on magazine covers, cementing his status as a teen idol.

Thomas struggled with maintaining a balance between his personal life and his career, and at the height of his fame, he decided to step back from the limelight and focus on his education. He has been candid about the toll that fame took on him as a child, citing the need for privacy and a sense of normalcy as important factors in his decision to leave the entertainment industry.

Thomas has remained largely out of the public eye choosing to focus on his personal life and private endeavors. He has also been active in philanthropy, supporting causes like wildlife conservation and children’s education. Thomas remains a beloved figure among fans of Home Improvement and ’90s nostalgia, with many continuing to support him in whatever endeavors he chooses to pursue.

2 Mara Wilson

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Mara Wilson was the ultimate face of childhood. Best known for her roles in beloved movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Matilda, and Miracle on 34th Street, Wilson was known for her talent and natural charm. She was essentially a modern-day Shirley Temple.

But Wilson’s experience as a child star was not always positive. She has been open about the difficulties of navigating Hollywood at a young age, including the pressure to conform to certain beauty standards and the unwanted attention of paparazzi and fans.

Wilson also struggled with the loss of her mother to cancer and with anxiety and depression. She took a break from acting in the early 2000s to focus on her mental health and education, eventually earning a degree from NYU.

In recent years, Wilson has advocated for mental health awareness and body positivity. She has also continued to work in entertainment, writing and performing in various shows and productions. Wilson remains a beloved figure in pop culture and a role model for young actors and fans. Her honesty and bravery in sharing her personal struggles have made her a beacon of hope for those facing similar challenges.

1 Haley Joel Osment

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He sees dead people. Or at least he used to…

Haley Joel Osment was a child actor in the late ’90s and early 2000s who rose to fame with his role in the thriller The Sixth Sense, earning critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for his performance.

Osment’s success in The Sixth Sense led to many movie roles, including parts in A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Pay It Forward. He was known for his ability to convey complex emotions and his natural talent on screen. However, Osment’s career began to slow down in the mid-2000s, and he took a break from acting to attend college.

Despite his successes, Osment’s transition to adulthood was not always smooth. He faced legal issues, including a 2006 arrest for drunk driving. He also struggled to find his place in Hollywood as he grew older, with fewer opportunities for roles that suited his age and talent.

Osment has continued to work in entertainment in recent years, with roles in TV shows like The Kominsky Method and Future Man. He has also explored other creative endeavors, including music and voice work. Osment remains a respected figure in Hollywood and a talented actor with a bright future ahead of him. His legacy as a child star and his contributions to the entertainment industry continues to live on.

fact checked by Rachel Jones