Gary Coleman, but perhaps these success stories can serve as a reminder that some child stars do survive and thrive.
Drew Barrymore. She may have been born with the twin inclinations for fame and infamy. The granddaughter of John Barrymore, one of the finest and inebriated actors of his time, she began working at 11-months-old. Her memorable performance in “E.T.” led to leading lady status in “Firestarter” and “Irreconcible Differences.” Unfortunately, the Barrymore last name came with an inclination for drink and drugs. By thirteen, she entered drug rehab. By seventeen, she began the process of rebuilding a career, first with B-movies like “Poison Ivy.” Now, she has won a Golden Globe and SAG Award for “Grey Gardens” and has impressive resume as a favorite girl-next-door in a slew of romantic comedies. She also heads Flower Films and has moved into directing with “Whip It.”
Leonardo DiCaprio: Now that DiCaprio stars in critically-acclaimed blockbusters like “Inception,” some may forget that his Hollywood career began at five with a short-lived stint on “Romper Room.” Commercials, the soap “Santa Barbara” and “Growing Pains” followed. In 1991, Robert De Niro cast the 17-year-old Leo in “This Boy's Life,” which launched him into the serious dramatic roles that he has enjoyed ever since, from “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” to “Titanic.” DiCaprio continues to grab coveted roles and many gorgeous women, even if the Academy Awards have thus far been reticent about acknowledging him. Few movie folks doubt that a golden statue (or two) will one day grace his mantelpiece.
Jodie Foster This two-time Oscar winner was not simply a working child actress but a full-fledged star with an Academy Award nomination for "Taxi Driver” at 14-years-old. She began working in commercials at three, before starring in “Bugsy Malone” and the original “Freaky Friday.” Surviving a hard-working childhood without a scandal spoke to her essential strength, but she then enrolled at Yale University. Would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley, Jr. cited his love for Foster as his inspiration for targeting Ronald Reagan.The resilient Foster continued her studies, earned a degree and maintained a dignified silence. She returned to acting and Oscar glory, before expanding into directing and producing.
Jason Bateman As the less famous sibling of Justine Bateman (“Family Ties”), Jason seemed an unlikely adult star. Starting at twelve, Bateman helped support his family (along with his sister) in TV roles, including “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Hogan Family.” After a solid ten-year TV career, the next dozen years were spent in party mode. Then “Arrested Development” came along. The cult hit may never have been a ratings hit, but Bateman won a Golden Globe as Michael Bluth and the fervent fan base has led to (finally) the announcement of a 2012 feature film follow-up and many movie roles.
Ron Howard The multi-talented Howard has had the rarest of Hollywood careers—a highly successful child actor, followed by a even more successful adult acting career, currently an Oscar-winning, A-list feature film director. He began acting at 18-months-old, landing regular guest parts (including “The Twilight Zone”) before spending eight years as Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show.” At nineteen, he starred in George Lucas’ coming-of-age ensemble “American Graffiti” (1974), which led to the retro sitcom “Happy Days.” He spent six years on the top-rated hit, but was also pursuing his true calling, film directing. Starting with the low-budget “Eat My Dust” for Roger Corman, Howard has steadily moved his way up in box office and prestige until receiving the Academy Award for 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind.” Howard also runs the high successful Imagine Entertainment with producing partner Brian Grazer.