The recent pictures of Macaulay Culkin looking not unlike a war camp prisoner prompted me to think about all of the “child stars” of yesteryear, especially the ones I grew up with. A lot of them are in pretty bad shape, making me wistful for days gone by when I watch Uncle Buck, The Parent Trap, What a Girl Wants, etc.
The story is an old one: cute kid hits it big in a blockbuster movie, fame and money comes at them faster than puberty, the temptations of Hollywood become too difficult to resist. We’ve heard it a million times, and it never stops being sad. Predictable, obnoxious, out-of-touch with reality–yes. But still sad!
I’d like to take my cynical hat off for just a moment and turn this frown upside down–what about the cute kids who hit it big in blockbusters and don’t end up in a series of mugshots? The ones who fly under-the-radar, or actually end up being credible actors and human beings?
Earlier this year, I read an article on The Huffington Post (or, as The Daily Show recently dubbed it, “The Sideboob Gazette“) that profiled Mara Wilson, former “child star” of Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street and Matilda. She went on to explain that film acting wasn’t fun for her as a child, and managed to express opinions gracefully without sounding ungrateful. She also has a kick-ass blog, marawilsonwritesstuff.com, and she’s fun to follow on Twitter.
She’s incredibly intelligent, accomplished, seemingly of sound mind and not a heroin addict! Crazy, right? I loved every single movie she was in as a kid, especially Matilda. I wasn’t ever thrust in a Chokey or anything, but my childhood wasn’t without its dysfunction so I enjoyed her in that movie a lot. I’m happy to have discovered her writing, because I enjoy her now as an adult even more.
Mara Wilson isn’t the only child star success story–Natalie Portman, Claire Danes, Sean Astin, Dakota Fanning, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christina Applegate are all great examples of former child actors who fly under-the-radar when it comes to the tabloids, and are still offered really great parts because they’re really great at what they do and most likely aren’t going to show up days late to a set with a methadone hangover. I mean…Winnie Cooper is, like, a physicist or something these days.
I hope that the Demi Lovatos and Miley Cyruses and Justin Biebers (I think we can all agree it’s about a decade and an eight-ball too late for Lindsay Lohan) of the world pay attention to the paths of the successes I’ve mentioned, but then that would mean they’d be considered in the same league. Which is a load of crap. So I guess when they show up on the cover of Us Weekly in their emaciated mugshots, People better have a profile on Leo feeding starving children in Africa that week.