Former Teen Stars Who Have Thrived in (and Out) of Show Business
By Patricia Chui Posted Mar 14th 2010 10:00AM
The death of 38-year-old actor Corey Haim, after a history of drug abuse, was sad news to anyone who remembered him as that cute, gangly, cherub-faced kid from the '80s movies 'Lucas,' 'The Lost Boys' and 'License to Drive.' What's even more tragic is that Haim joins a long list of troubled former child and teen stars -- Brad Renfro, River Phoenix and Jonathan Brandis, to name a few -- who lived too fast and died too young.
But it's hardly true that every child actor heads down a road to ruin, jail or reality TV. There are plenty of examples of those who have thrived as both adolescents and adults, who serve not as cautionary tales, but as role models. So take heed, past and future young thespians -- ahem, Lindsay Lohan -- you can grow up in Hollywood and still make it in America.
Played: Opie on 'The Andy Griffith Show,' Richie Cunningham on 'Happy Days'
What He's Done Since Then: He switched seamlessly from acting to directing (with 'Night Shift') in the final years of his 'Happy Days' run -- a smart choice, as he's now directed some 20 movies and been nominated for two Best Director Oscars (winning one, for 'A Beautiful Mind'). Howard's current project is 'Your Cheating Heart' starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, his first comedy since 1999's 'EDtv' ... if you don't count his Funny or Die videos.
Played: Tallulah in 'Bugsy Malone,' Iris in 'Taxi Driver,' Annabel in 'Freaky Friday'
What She's Done Since Then: Despite the intense pressure of her childhood and a creepy stalker scare, she's the poster girl for former child actors who've become successful adult actors. She's won two Best Actress Oscars (for 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'The Accused') and also received some acclaim as a director. Next up, she's directing and co-starring with Mel Gibson in 'The Beaver' -- which is not, in fact, a porno, but a black comedy about a guy who communicates with his family using a beaver hand-puppet. (Yes, Mel Gibson will be speaking through a beaver hand-puppet. We can't wait.)
Neil Patrick Harris
Played: Doogie Howser on 'Doogie Howser, M.D.'
What He's Done Since Then: What has he done? Only become totally awesome. Whoops, we're channeling his character Barney Stinson on CBS' 'How I Met Your Mother' -- but it's still true. Last year NPH, a Broadway veteran, achieved the singular distinction of hosting both the Tonys and the Emmys, and this year he opened the Oscars with a surprise song-and-dance number (legendary!). He's recently been cast as the "lead smurf" (all we know is that it isn't Papa Smurf) in 'Smurfs: The Movie,' of which he said via Twitter, "I'll do my smurfiest to represent well."
Played: Olivia on 'The Cosby Show,' Nicole on 'Hangin' with Mr. Cooper'
What She's Done Since Then: Who knew that adorable little Olivia would wind up working more steadily than almost anyone else in the Huxtable clan? These days she's a bona fide Disney star, having headlined two 'Cheetah Girls' movies as well as her own sitcom, 'That's So Raven.' On top of that, she's released four studio albums, lent her voice to Disney's 'Tinker Bell' series of DVDs and maintains a how-to video channel, Raven-Symoné Presents. Take that, 'High School Musical' kids.
Played: Luke on 'Growing Pains,' Toby in 'This Boy's Life'
What He's Done Since Then: It seems like the cute homeless kid from 'Growing Pains' and the glowering, Oscar-nominated actor of today are practically different people, doesn't it? But the intensity thing seems to be working for DiCaprio, who's now done four movies with Martin Scorsese (the latest being 'Shutter Island') and next stars in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi thriller 'Inception.'
Played: Molly on 'The Facts of Life,' Samantha in 'Sixteen Candles'
What She's Done Since Then: When her movie career waned, John Hughes's muse retired to France for four years and then spent some time working in theater. Now, the mother of three is back in the public eye, starring in ABC Family's 'The Secret Life of an American Teenager' (as the mom, not the teenager), and giving a heartfelt tribute to her late mentor Hughes at this year's Academy Awards.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Played: Patty on 'Square Pegs,' Rusty in 'Footloose,' Janey in 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun'
What She's Done Since Then: Oh, just a little TV series (and movie) called 'Sex and the City.' SJP's come a long way since the shy, bespectacled nerd she played on 'Square Pegs' -- these days she's a fashionista icon AND married to Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, of course). She's seen moderate success in movies, starring in romantic comedies like last year's 'Did You Hear About the Morgans?', but nothing compares to the phenomenon that is 'SATC.' The 'Sex and the City' sequel comes out this year, and if the trailer is any indication, our Carrie's still fabulous.
Played: Tommy on 'Third Rock from the Sun'
What He's Done Since Then: Gordon-Levitt could have traded in on his boyish good looks and done more high-school romantic comedies like '10 Things I Hate About You.' But instead, he transformed his career with a string of critically acclaimed, underseen indies such as 'Mysterious Skin,' 'Brick' and 'The Lookout' until scoring a hit with last summer's '(500) Days of Summer' (which still grossed just one-fifth the box office of his other 2009 movie, 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra'). He'll soon co-star in 'Inception' with fellow former child actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Played: Gertie in 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,' Charlie in 'Firestarter,' Ivy in 'Poison Ivy'
What She's Done Since Then: It was touch-and-go there for a while (club kid Barrymore started using cocaine at 12, and hit rehab shortly after that), but she's pulled it together impressively, becoming one of Hollywood's most bankable romantic comedy stars. Last year, her directorial debut, 'Whip It,' was well-received, and she earned an Emmy nomination and won both a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for her role in the TV adaptation of the documentary turned Broadway play 'Grey Gardens.' Betty White will have to hustle to catch up with her -- Barrymore's already hosted 'Saturday Night Live' a record-breaking six times.
Played: Blossom on 'Blossom'
What She's Done Since Then: If you didn't hear from Bialik for a few years, that's because she was off having two kids and getting her Ph.D. in neuroscience (and you thought you were smart). Recently, she's stuck her toe back in the acting waters with guest appearances on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and a recurring role on 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager'; but her most high-profile gig of late was on an episode of 'What Not to Wear,' during which Stacy and Clinton cured her of an unfortunate attachment to peasant skirts (but not, we hope, colorful hats). Find out where 'Blossom' stars are today.
Played: Urkel on 'Family Matters'
What He's Done Since Then: He's fought being typecast as TV's most memorable nerd, but White's kept busy in the intervening years, graduating from UCLA's film school in 2001 and scoring small parts on 'Boston Legal,' 'The Game,' 'Psych' and in 'Dreamgirls.' And though he did not, as Internet rumors claimed, commit suicide in 2006, he did get married -- sort of -- as the star of last year's Web mockumentary 'Road to the Altar.'
For more acting success stories, see 10 Former TV Child Stars Who Aren't Crackheads.
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