They were your absolute favorite actors when you were a kid yourself. They were the crush you figured you would one day marry. They were the reason why you pressured your parents into buying you Tiger Beat while standing in line at the grocery store. They were EVERYTHING when you were a kid – so what the hell happened to some of them? While we assume fame is the ultimate goal at any age, some actors who hit the Hollywood jackpot so young don’t seem to think so. These particular celebrities walked away from Tinsel Town in order to either move on to bigger and better things (pursuing an education), or couldn’t take the pressure of fame itself and looked to drugs or booze for comfort. While these 15 child actors showed so much promise, they simply seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth since first breaking onto the scene so many years ago.
15 Jason James Richter (Free Willy)
Actor Jason James Richter is best known for being the co-star of a beautiful killer whale (and was out shined by the whale, might I add) in the 90’s hit movie that spawned a butt load of parody adult titles, Free Willy. Richter went on to star in the third movie of the The NeverEnding Story franchise along with all those Free Willy follow ups where he had to keep saving that damn whale. In the early 2000s, Richter would commonly guest star on shows like Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and even created his own short film titled The Quiet Loud after taking a break from the acting world for a spell. Even though he basically fell off the planet and starred in flop after flop, Richter is attempting to make a huge come-back to Hollywood in the next couple of years with his films American Brawler, Driver, and 3 Solitude. Let’s hope these projects don’t fall flat on their face and Richter is finally able to establish himself as a serious actor and not just the kid who freed his Willy (wait…).
14 Ariana Richards (Jurassic Park)
Ariana Richards was a familiar face no young person could really ever forget – because the film she starred in nearly traumatized the absolute hell out of anyone who ever insanely said “I wish there were still dinosaurs”. Richards played Lex Murphy, the granddaughter of John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the man who managed to bring back dinosaurs to the world to intermingle with human beings… to say the least. Since Jurassic Park, Richards has become a professional painter. “I love to work with people in the art and express their story on canvas,” Richards once told People.com. “And my impression of them and what they want to express and use oils, brushes, canvas to create something that will last the generation.” Richard is currently living in South America with her family, which includes her husband and young child.
13 Brian Bonsall (Family Ties)
Sometimes, an actor’s fall from grace can be a bit harder than others - especially when he smashes head first into the pavement. This happened to be the case for Brian Bonsall, the kid who played Andy Keaton on ABC’s hit series Family Ties. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the show myself, I did remember him from the Disney comedy Blank Check, where he played this 12-year old kid who becomes rich after he cashes a million dollar check from a bank robber. Bonsall had a promising career ahead of him following Family Ties, in both film and television, but he ended up deciding to retire young in 1995 and formed a rock band called Late Bloomers (heh) with his buddies a couple years later. He punk-band hopped through the early 2000s and was arrested in 2007 for assaulting his girlfriend at the time. He was AGAIN arrested for third-degree assault a couple years later and was hit with probation for both that and for failing to appear in court for his first assault. Fast forward to 2010 where Bonsall was starring in his third arrest, this time for using illegal substances in violation of the terms of his release. Despite all the moronic arrests, Bonsall is still performing in punk bands and living a very mediocre life on the road. Way to go, bro.
12 Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement)
The “JTT” craze hit like a life-force sucking hurricane and bulldozed its way through every young woman’s heart at one point in the 1990’s. Jonathan Taylor Thomas didn’t seem to ask for any of it though. When he landed the role of Randy Taylor on ABC’s comedy series Home Improvement, he had no clue what would be in store for him as he got older. While playing the part of the sarcastic, intelligent middle son of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, he seemed to set every girl’s heart on fire so much so that Thomas ended up branching out to voice acting (he was the voice of Simba on The Lion King) and then over to actual live-action films. Though education always seemed to win out over acting when it came to Thomas. He eventually enrolled at Harvard University before moving over to St. Andrews University in Scotland for a year. He graduated from Columbia University School of General Studies in 2010. Since his Home Improvement days, he’s guest starred in numerous TV shows, but has never officially dived back into acting full time.
11 Alisan Porter (Curly Sue)
Now, this actress didn’t EXACTLY fall off the face of the planet – though she did when it came to acting. Before her iconic turn as the precocious title character in Curly Sue, actress Alisan Porter played small roles in the movies I Love You To Death, Parenthood, and Stella. She continued acting after her hit role, but was focusing more so on musical theatre instead of film when she went to high school. At 18-years old, the actress moved to New York and attempted to take on Broadway. She was successful and starred in Footloose before moving to Los Angeles in order to star in the musical version of The Ten Commandments with Val Kilmer and Adam Lambert. On Season 10 of NBC’s The Voice, Porter became a contestant under Christina Aguilera after blowing everyone out of the water with the song “Blue Bayou”. She eventually won the competition, which seems a tad unfair since she’s a known Broadway actress/singer in the first place.
10 Bradley Pierce (Jumanji)
Actor Bradley Pierce played a pivotal role in the children’s adventure Jumanji alongside Kirsten Dunst, who played his sister. Both faced off against the late Robin Williams character as they were sucked into a different world filled with exotic danger and strange plot holes. Pierce was even the voice of Chip on the animated version of Beauty and the Beast and guest starred in a variety of different television shows including Mad About You and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. These days though, Pierce is raising a family of his own and is focusing on being heavily involved in youth charity work in San Diego. Pierce stepped out of the shadows of his personal life recently in order to address the odd controversy of character Le Fou’s preference in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. “I think Le Fou, the character that’s officially gay now, always was,” Pierce said to TMZ when asked about the animated version of the Le Fou character versus the modern day version. “The only thing they had that might have made him seem straight was when he was also getting all google-eyed over the triplets… But that was the only almost straight thing that he did. The rest of it was all gay, bro wingman.” Well said, sir.
9 Liesel Matthews (A Little Princess)
The doe-eyed Liesel Matthews first charmed us as the brave princess who was banished to an orphanage after the supposed loss of her parents in A Little Princess. She then played Harrison Ford’s daughter in Air Force One and kicked some terrorist butt. Matthews, whose birth name is Liesel Pritzker Simmons, is a member of the Pritzkers, a family who is considered one of the wealthiest families in the country to date (they own the Hyatt Hotel chain). After starring in films, Matthews focused more so on the stage and played in the Neil Labute play The Distance From Here, which also starred Amy Ryan, Ana Reeder, and Jason Ritter. When she went on to attend Columbia University, Matthews filed a lawsuit against her own father, claiming that he and her elder cousins misappropriated money from her trust fund. She founded the Young Ambassadors for Opportunity and donated millions of dollars to Opportunity International. She eventually married another fortune heir (Ian Simmons – heir to the Erie Canal) and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
8 Jake Lloyd (The Phantom Menace)
Most of the Star Wars community would be happy if George Lucas’ prequels never even existed in the first place. While the movies were necessary for the entire story itself, the crap shoot that was the end result of all three will haunt fans until the very end of time. Young actor Jake Lloyd played little Anakin Skywalker – the rosy cheeked little ragamuffin who would eventually become one of film’s greatest super villains – in The Phantom Menace. Lloyd has since fallen on much harder times. A couple years ago, Lloyd was charged with reckless driving after he led police on a chase through the streets of South Carolina (he didn’t have a driver’s license at the time, to boot). He was arrested and put behind bars. Last year, the former actor had to be transferred to a psychiatric centre after it was revealed that he was suffering from schizophrenia and is currently spending his days on the mend.
7 Barret Oliver (The NeverEnding Story)
Sometimes, the acting bug just gets squashed before it even has time to grow, at least with some child actors. This was the case for Barret Oliver from the beloved children’s movie The NeverEnding Story. While the former Bastian did have minor roles in other films following Story (such as starring in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie) along with one title role in the movie D.A.R.Y.L, he basically slipped off into obscurity. Oliver eventually became a professional photographer in Los Angeles. He even wrote a book called A History of the Woodburytype. And even though he was uncredited, he was one of the still photographers for the Nicole Kidman film Cold Mountain. While some children usually grow out of their childish cuteness, Oliver did a number over on himself and looks like he could play a stand-in in a Ted Kaczynki biopic.
6 Maia Brewton (Adventures in Babysitting)
We all fell in love with Maia Brewton when she was the scrappy little Thor-obsessed kid who gave Elisabeth Shue’s character in Adventures in Babysitting so much damn trouble. She also played a character on Fox’s Parker Lewis Can’t Lose for three seasons until the show’s cancellation. Before the now cult-classic Babysitting, Brewton starred in Back to the Future and a show called Lime Street with Robert Wagner. After Adventures, Brewton danced around TV and played in Skytrackers (a TV movie), 21 Jump Street, Highway to Heaven, Trapper John, M.D. and The Wonder Years before she gave up the craft altogether to focus on her education and attend Yale University. She eventually became a very successful attorney and married her wife Lara Spotts. The couple has two children and are living a very happy life off the screen.
5 Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire)
The Jerry Maguire wunderkind didn’t exactly disappear off the map all together after he charmed the world with his little four-eyed ways. Former actor Jonathan Lipnicki followed up his part on the Tom Cruise Academy Award winning movie by playing roles in The Jeff Foxworthy Show, The Single Guy, Dawson’s Creek, and Meego. He also played a starring role in Stuart Little as a boy whose family adopts a talking mouse, and its 2002 sequel. As he grew up, he trained in mixed martial arts styles and has competed in national competitions. Though when it comes to fighting professionally, Lipnicki is vague. “I’ve been pretty busy filming and I would need to put off a certain amount of time to really train for a fight and be in amazing cardio shape and really work on my striking more,” he said. “I’m not saying no and I’m not saying yes.” Lipnicki also has a heavy hand in charities, including being speaker for the Breast Cancer Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
4 Jeff Cohen (The Goonies)
It’s the guy who made the Truffle-Shuffle an actual thing. Jeff Cohen played Chunk in Steven Spielberg’s hit movie The Goonies, which gave bored children everywhere hope that real adventures lurk around every corner. Chunk (real name Lawrence) was the lovable chubby kid who struggled to keep up with his best friends as they attempted to thwart a couple of criminals in order to be the first to find the treasure of an old Oregonian pirate legend. Cohen himself decided to do a complete about-face and became a lawyer. Cohen claimed he came to the decision to quit acting after he hit puberty and lost all his baby fat (which had shot him to fame in the first place, believe it or not. Ugh, you’d never see that happen to a female actress. Hollywood sucks). Cohen attended the University of California, Berkley and ended up being a founding partner of Cohen & Gardner LLP.
3 Amber Scott (Hook)
Actress Amber Scott was first seen in Steven Spielberg’s hit movie Hook, which was released in 1991. She played the adorable Maggie Banning, the little daughter of Peter Banning/Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, who was taken to Neverland against her will. Of course, everything ended up right as rain in the end, but we were all mesmerized by this little seven year old girl. Apparently, she grew up near the fountain of youth because she looks like she’s all of 19-years old even in her thirties. She’s hasn’t done much acting since the 90’s, aside from some voice-over work, and ended up graduating from Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut back in 2006. Not much is known of Scott after she attended school, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she popped up on screens (or modeling, to be honest) in the near future.
2 Amy O'Neill (Honey, I Shrunk The Kids)
While actress Amy O’Neill had been acting long before the movie that made her a teenage dream, she didn’t become completely recognizable until she starred as Amy Szalinski in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. She had roles in The Young and the Restless, Mama’s Family, Night Court, and The Twilight Zone before Shrunk, and went on to star in the film’s sequel Honey, I Blew Up The Kids. But afterward, she sort of drifted off the radar when she kept receiving screenplays that included nudity – something she refused to do on camera. Oddly enough, O’Neill became a part of… the circus? She became a part of Roy Johns circus crew (Johns was a former childhood friend of hers) before joining the Hollywood, Alabama trio “Girls on Stilts”. She tours around the world and has even performed at Harrah's Casino and Disneyland.
1 Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story)
It’s Atreyu! The little warrior who reeked of awesome and got to ride that furry dragon thing Falkor around everywhere and save everyone (though, I may have cried a little when his horse drown in a pit of mud – so wrong to write that into a children’s movie, by the way). Noah Hathaway did do some minor acting after playing the coolest kid on the face of the earth, but it wasn’t too substantial. He starred in Family Ties and Simon & Simon and even had the starring roll in the movie Troll. The last time he was seen on screen was way back in 1994 when Hathaway starred in To Die, To Sleep. After he decided to leave Hollywood behind, he picked up some black belts in Tang Soo Do and Shotokan Karate and even set up a chopper shop.