Child actors tend to affect us the most. We imagine ourselves in love with those gorgeous teens when we are kids. As we grow older, some of them pull at our heartstrings and remind us of our own childhood. The connection that the audience has with its favorite child actors is a class apart.
What we tend to forget is that these actors are people in their own right, and this sudden fame and adulation they receive tend to go to their little heads. Some of them manage to make a rather successful transition from their charmed childhood to the banalities of adult life. Some even become successful actors despite growing out of their cuteness. People like Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe are shining examples. Some cannot bear the loss of their fame and their waning popularity, and things go terribly for them. So let’s remember these once-adorable child actors. Here are eight celebs from our childhood that sadly never even made it to 20, and seven more whose careers failed, bringing in painful consequences for them. We can remember them all in a good light, send them little RIP prayers and hope that the cuties who seem to have lost their way, can find themselves success once again.
15. Brad Renfro: Was The Angst Of The Client All Too Real?
If you have forgotten who Brad Renfro was, think of the intense and cute Mark Sway in the movie The Client, co-starring Susan Sarandon & Tommy Lee Jones. The movie proved to be a hit and Brad Renfro became famous. He went on to star as Huckleberry Finn in the 1995 movie Tom and Huck along with Jonathan Taylor Thomas (who plays Randy Taylor on Home Improvement) and also portrayed Brad Pitt in the disturbingly dark movie Sleepers. Success came easy and Brad Renfro became a typical Hollywood bad boy with drug possessions, attempted robbery, and DUI on his rap sheet. And so consequentially, the work dried up. An adult Brad Renfro found himself unwanted and unemployed. Sadly, in 2008, Brad Renfro was found dead in his apartment at the mere age of 25. His death was ruled accidental overdose.
14. Robert Knox: The Courageous And Tragic Tale Of Marcus Belby
Robert Knox was into acting since the age of 11, even starring in the 2004 movie King Arthur but was noticed only when he played Marcus Belby in Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince. Unfortunately, this fame was posthumous. Knox died at the age of 18 in 2008 after he was stabbed outside the Metro Bar in Sidcup, South East London, on May 24. And he died rather valiantly, trying to protect his 16-year-old younger brother Jamie who was being threatened by two men armed with knives. The man in question was sentenced to life without parole but showed no remorse for extinguishing a bright life for no reason… His brother, whose life Robert saved, lives in gratitude and wants to dedicate his acting career (that he’s just starting) to Robert and his courageous actions.
13. Lindsay Lohan: From The Cutest Little Girl To Haggard at 30!
Lindsay’s gorgeous baby looks made her modelling career take off when she was just three. In 1998, Disney produced the remake of The Parent Trap and the 12-year-old Lindsay Lohan was cast in it. Everyone knew her name. More success followed in films like Life-Size and Freaky Friday and then the teen comedy Mean Girls, which still has a considerable following. She also released two albums, which did not receive much critical acclaim, but the first one did become a platinum record. Soon Lohan was involved in a string of DUIs and a never-ending cycle of probation, jail time, and more offences. Her current scenario doesn’t seem to feature many acting plans considering most Hollywood producers won’t touch her with a bargepole! Now officially probation-free, Lohan’s Russian fiancé Egor Tarabasov may also be physically abusive towards her.
12. Anissa Jones: When Success Comes With A Price
Before there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was Buffy the girl in the 60s TV series Family Affair, where she plays an orphaned niece who, with her twin brother and older sister, is foisted upon her bachelor uncle to raise. While it was all good and merry on TV, Anissa’s personal life was far more tumultuous. Once the show was over, there seemed to be no more roles for her and she fell into a life of utter disregard. She would skip school and was a known runaway. When she gained financial independence in March 1976, she and her younger brother moved out of their mother’s apartment and rented a place nearby. She had some $180,000 of savings then. Barely five months later, Anissa Jones died of an accidental drug overdose after having partied at a beach with her new boyfriend all night long. She left $163,000 as her legacy and sadly, her younger brother too died the same way in 1984.
11. Edward Furlong: From A Darling To A D-Bag
Edward Furlong was the baby-cheeked and tousle-haired boy who played a tear-jerking John Connor in the 1991 classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He won hearts all around and then also went on to become critically acclaimed for many other childhood films and adult roles in films like American History X and Pecker. But his glory days have long been turned to dust! After the 90s, Furlong’s career declined into direct-to-DVD films and TV appearances, mainly because he was losing his battle with drug and alcohol abuse. His rap sheet is long and reads of multiple DUIs, possession, and even domestic battery charges. Basically, Edward Furlong is the truest case study of a bright life, filled with fame that crumbled under pressure and is turning to dust. He is overweight, looks a far cry from his original teen heartthrob days, and apparently turns to violence in his relationships.
10. Heather O’Rourke: When A Medical Misdiagnosis Proved Fatal
The silver-blonde, blue-eyed and soft-voiced Heather O’Rourke was perfectly cast as Carol Anne Freeling, a young suburban girl who becomes the conduit and target for supernatural entities in Spielberg’s 1982 spine-chilling horror movie Poltergeist. And along with the movie becoming a big hit and a cult classic, Heather O’Rourke seemed destined for stardom. Except that she fell ill and was diagnosed by doctors as having Crohn’s disease. She was prescribed prednisone to treat the disease, which caused her cheeks to appear puffy and large. In 1988, O’Rourke became seriously ill again, vomiting and unable to keep food or water down – it was then found out that her earlier diagnosis was faulty and the medicine was making her worse. She collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest in the ambulance while en route to the hospital. She passed away at just 12 years old.
9. Jonathan Brandis: From Mass Crush To Nobody & No Work
Jonathan Brandis was one charming little kid. His acting debut came in 1982 with a guest role on the soap opera One Life to Live. In 1990, a 14-year-old Brandis was cast in a lead role Stephen King‘s supernatural horror miniseries IT and then three years later he landed his biggest role, that of Lucas Wolenczak, a teen prodigy on the series seaQuest DSV. Brandis became a teen heartthrob and had to be escorted off the set by three bodyguards, who protected him from the mob of female fans outside. But roles came few and far between after the end of seaQuest DSV, and Brandis began to spiral into depression because of his waning popularity. In November 2003, Brandis finally gave up. Friends found him in his LA apartment building and though he was rushed to the hospital, he died the following day.
8. Macaulay Culkin: Of Talent, Looks And A Life Lost In Drugs
When he played the role of Kevin McCallister in the family comedy Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Macaulay Culkin became an overnight sensation at just 10! Roles in Richie Rich as well as in Uncle Buck and My Girl continued his success but soon a string of flops followed. Macaulay Culkin had reached a crossroad where he should have worked hard at reinventing himself. But after a quick wedding and an even quicker divorce, and other failed relationships, as well as auditions, Culkin, began to lose his way. He broke off from his family and drugs became a favored pastime. He was arrested in 2004 for possession of marijuana and other controlled substances and was given three suspended prison sentences. He launched a band and then disbanded it and will now be seen in Seth Green’s Changeland, along with his current girlfriend, Brenda Song. We do hope the “change” is for the better.
7. Sawyer Sweeten: The Romano Twin Who Couldn’t Take Unemployment
The whole world has, at some or the other time, watched the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. And we all remember Raymond Barone (Ray Romano) and his eccentric family, and the adorable Barone kids: Alexandra “Ally” Barone played by Madilyn Sweeten, and the twin siblings Geoffrey & Michael Barone, played by Madilyn’s real-life twin siblings, Sawyer & Sullivan Sweeten. The boys came onto the show when they were just 16 months old, in 1996, and stayed on till the series finally ended after a nine-year run in 2005. While Madilyn and Sullivan coped just fine after the loss of fame, Sawyer chased fame but found none. Ten years later, just a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday, Sawyer ended his own life, on the porch of the family they were visiting in Austin, Texas. Sawyer left behind a devastated family and a reeling onscreen family as well.
6. Judith Barsi: Her Father Could Not Bear Her Success
Other than being a child actor, Judith Barsi also voiced the dinosaur Ducky in The Land Before Time 80s movie series. She was born to Hungarian parents József & Maria who immigrated to the USA in search of a better life. Judith began to appear in commercials when she was just five and went on to star in many successful TV shows and plenty of movies. When she was ten, Judith broke down on set. She was taken to a child psychologist who diagnosed the little girl as a victim of severe physical and psychological abuse. The abuser was none other than her own alcoholic father. Judith’s mother Maria decided to leave József for good and that’s when things went from bad to worse. Judith’s burgeoning five-year career ended when her abusive father shot her and her mother Maria. He then ended his own life. Judith’s last completed work, All Dogs Go To Heaven, was released posthumously a year later in 1989.
5. Corey Haim: From A Teen Heartthrob To A 30-Something Nobody
Corey Haim first came to stardom in 1984’s Firstborn, and other movies like Silver Bullet, Lucas (alongside a young Winona Ryder) and The Lost Boys made Haim a teen heartthrob. He often starred alongside his best friend Corey Feldman and together, they were known as The Two Coreys. But despite his burgeoning career, Haim’s life fast spiraled into the never-ending pit of drugs and despair. This might have also been brought on by abuse he faced in Hollywood as a child actor (as mentioned in Corey Feldman’s memoir Coreyography). Haim’s popularity began to wane in the early 1990s after a public fall from grace. His drug problem worsened after that, though he tried to get clean with many stints in rehab. After years of unsuccessful comebacks, on March 10, 2010, an unresponsive Haim was found by his cancer-stricken mother in the apartment they shared. 38-year-old Haim was pronounced dead at the hospital of pulmonary congestion that was brought on and worsened by years of drug abuse.
4. Jessica Jacobs: When Fate Brings A Freak Accident
Many would remember the impish character of Melanie Atwood in the series The Saddle Club, based on the books by Bonnie Bryant. Melanie was played by Marisa Siketa in the first season of the show but in the second season, the character was then taken up by Jessica Jacobs. Jessica made the character even more popular and was all set to return for season 3 but fate had other plans, literally. On 10 May 2008, 17-year-old Jacobs was walking along the platform at Cheltenham railway station, Melbourne. She was to meet her mother to shop for her elder brother Adam’s birthday gift. In a freak accident, she somehow tripped and fell onto the tracks, right into the path of an oncoming train. She was fatally run over. The accident happened too fast and no one was able to save her.
3. Tara Correa-McMullen: From Reel Gangs To Real Gangs
Born Shalvah McMullen, Tara Correa got into films when her mom, who worked for a casting company, recommended her for a role – so Tara got a small role in the 2005 flick Rebound. She was then cast as gang member Graciela Reyes on the CBS TV series Judging Amy where she appeared in many episodes of the sixth season. She also played a small role in Zoey 101 and perhaps would have reached more success, if not for the fact that she was tragically targeted. Tara Correa had moved out of her mother’s home and into an apartment with a boyfriend, who was a known gang member ten years her senior. Another gang member, Damien Watts, shot and killed her on October 21, 2005 – when she was trying to run back to her apartment.
2. Michael Cuccione: RIP To The Cancer-Surviving Child Actor
Michael Cuccione was a multi-talented child actor, singer, dancer, author, and an activist for cancer research, himself a cancer victim. He was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymph nodes. It seemed to go away after five months of chemotherapy, but returned the next year, this time having metastasized to his lungs. Massive doses of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and twelve radiation treatments around his heart and lungs made him cancer free but the treatment left him with permanent lung and respiratory problems. He finally died of respiratory failure on January 13, 2001, just 8 days after he turned 16 years old, after battling pneumonia for about a month. You may remember him as cancer victim Charlie Dodson Hays in a Baywatch episode, and as Jason ‘QT’ McKnight, a member of the satirical boy band 2ge+her. The Michael Cuccione Foundation for Cancer Research is still alive and well.
1. Amanda Bynes: A Cute Girl Who Couldn’t Handle Her Success
Amanda Bynes seemed to have everything working for her. She was a prominent child star in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the hit Nickelodeon series All That and The Amanda Show. And she even managed to make a decent transition from child actor to more mature roles in silver screen movies such as She’s the Man, What A Girl Wants, and Hairspray. Bynes seemed to have a good comic timing, flouncy looks to match and her head firmly screwed on her shoulders, until it all came crumbling down in an instant. In 2012, she announced that she would be taking a hiatus from acting to pursue a fashion career. Her hiatus brought many a legal issue when she was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after side-swiping a police car in West Hollywood. After being involved with multiple hit-and-run charges later in the year, she was sentenced to three years’ probation. Her physical appearance changed for the worse and she had to undergo plenty psychological evaluations too, considering she also tried to set a fire on some random person’s lawn. Apparently after all this, with no roles, Bynes is now doing well and focused on her studies. We hope so, Amanda…