While Hollywood’s bread and butter is gorgeous leading women and hunky leading men, there’s an incredibly important other category in the entertainment industry – child actors. From the cute younger brother to the precocious child of a busy mother, many scripts include roles for children, and Hollywood had to find young actors and actresses who are able to rise to the task.
Countless child actors turn out to have incredibly sad stories, partially because of the amount of pressure that is often placed on them to succeed, and even to support their families. However, there are also countless child actors who go on to achieve success. Some decide to step away from the entertainment industry once they begin to reach adulthood, either unable to find success as an adult actor or simply not wanting to. Others manage to stay in the entertainment industry, but thanks to puberty, end up looking completely different than the cherub faced child actors they used to be. In fact, you’d have a hard time recognizing many former child actors whose faces were once so iconic.
Here are 15 famous child actors you will no longer recognize – and most of them have managed to transform from too-cute children to stone cold foxes.
As a child actor, Alyson Stoner had roles in both television and film, including playing Channing Tatum’s baby foster sister in the first Step Up movie. She was also a Disney staple with roles on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Phineas and Ferb (although the latter was merely a voice role, so it’d be hard to judge how her appearance evolved over her time on that show). However, the way most people will know her is as that young, crazy-talented dancer who appeared in countless Missy Elliott music videos in her pre-teen years. Nowadays, Stoner is still working in the entertainment industry, continuing to act in various roles. And, of course, her dance skills are still completely insane – just check out the tribute to Missy Elliott she recently made.
Who could ever forget Jonathan Lipnicki? He won the world’s hearts with his role in Jerry Maguire at only six years old, and went on to star in films such as The Little Vampire, Like Mike, and the Stuart Little films. He took a bit of time to re-group as he began to grow up, selecting a few roles in independent films and on stage. He continues to work both on the silver screen and on the stage, but you may not associate today’s Lipnicki with the bespectacled child actor – he looks dramatically different, trading in chubby cheeks for a chiselled physique.
Everyone remembers the twins who joined forces to play youngest daughter Michelle on popular sitcom Full House – Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson became household names after that show launched their careers. But what about the other set of twins, the boys born to Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky? Well, first of all, the Tuomy-Wilhoit brothers are 24 now (yeah, that’s how long it’s been since the iconic show was on the air). While neither decided to continue acting after Full House wrapped, Dylan remained in the entertainment industry as a foley artist in the sound department, even earning an Emmy nomination for his work on HBO mega-hit Game of Thrones. His twin, Blake, works as a firefighter. However, they’ve both signed on to be a part of new show Fuller House – and if it weren’t for their twin status, you wouldn’t connect these two handsome men with the cute, long-haired twins on the air years and years ago.
Mackenzie Rosman had all but faded into obscurity when she decided to pose scantily clad on the cover of Maxim and jog everyone’s memory. If her goal was to shock the audiences that once watched her as youngest daughter Ruthie on 7th Heaven. Rosman has had a few roles since her days as Ruthie Camden, but pretty much stepped away from the entertainment industry until that controversial photoshoot. Whatever her motivation was for stepping back into the spotlight in lingerie, she definitely had people’s eyebrows raised as they couldn’t believe the young woman gracing the cover of Maxim was the same cute child actor on 7th Heaven.
During his childhood, Haley Joel Osment was incredibly busy, racking up countless small roles on television series and in commercials for years before shooting to superstardom due to his role in The Sixth Sense. He went on to earn several other notable roles in films like Pay It Forward and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Osment has remained active in the entertainment industry, adding small roles to his resume including video game voiceovers, but he hasn’t quite reached the same level of success as an adult as he had as a child actor. Thus, unless you’ve followed his career over the years, you probably wouldn’t be able to recognize the guy with the scraggly beard as that young kid who saw dead people way back in the 90s.
Who is Bug Hall, you might ask? Why, none other than The Little Rascals’ iconic suit-wearing Alfalfa. Hall shot to superstardom in his role in the popular film, and forever went down in the public’s memory as that cute child with the slicked hair who was forever trying to win Darla’s heart. Like many of the child actors on this list, he hasn’t been able to achieve quite the same level of success as an adult, and has a resume filled with small guest roles or voiceover gigs. One thing is for sure, though – his looks have change over the years.
It may seem premature to say that Dakota Blue Richards has undergone a huge transformation, seeing as she’s only 21 now, but just take a look at some pictures of her then and now and you’ll see exactly why she deserves a spot on this list. Pre-puberty, Richards shot to stardom in her debut role as Lyra Belacqua in The Golden Compass, a film based on Phillip Pullman’s popular series. She took a drastically different role a few years later on U.K. hit Skins, and has been working in the industry ever since. While it’s been less than a decade since she played the plucky pre-teen heroine in her debut role, her looks have done a complete 180 as she went from a cute child actor to a gorgeous, busty bombshell.
Highmore started to earn some recognition in Hollywood after his roles in the early 2000s, most notably in Finding Neverland and in the remake of the ever popular children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He spent a few years working on smaller roles before stepping back into the public eye in Bates Motel. However, until we saw those credits flash across the screen, we would never have believed that the boy in those early films and the man on the television show were the same guy. He looks so dramatically different! While it can often be difficult for child actors to age, we bet that in a few more years Highmore will be one of the biggest leading men in Hollywood.
While he has several credits to his name, Peter Billingsley is most known by the general public for one iconic role he had as a child – young Ralphie in holiday classic A Christmas Story, the bespectacled boy who just wanted a BB gun so, so badly. While Billingsley got some small acting roles in his adulthood, he decided to switch in the 2000s and focus a bit more on producing films and television series. Whether he’s behind the camera or in front of it, Billingsley has been involved in the entertainment industry ever since he was a kid, but there’s no way you’d recognize him as the boy from the holiday classic.
Child actor Jerry O’Connell and current Jerry O’Connell may as well be two entirely different people. While O’Connell started his acting career at a very young age with small roles and commercial work, he became a household name as the chubby Vern Tessio in the classic film Stand By Me. Nowadays, he’s looking a lot more chiseled than in his childhood, and even managed to snag supermodel Rebecca Romjin as his wife. He hasn’t quite had a role that was as iconic as in his childhood, but he’s had steady work in Hollywood for decades, so O’Connell is definitely doing something right.
Anna Chlumsky’s Hollywood career is basically the dictionary definition of a comeback. She made a name for herself in the entertainment industry courtesy of her iconic role as Ada Sultenfuss in My Girl and My Girl 2. After that, she took nearly a decade off, completely leaving the film industry and doing normal young adult things like going to college and working a series of somewhat transient jobs. Chlumsky definitely had the brains to succeed at whatever she wanted, but after awhile away from the glitz and glam of Hollywood, she decided that she really missed acting. Nowadays, you’ll see her on small screens in popular comedy Veep.
Danica McKellar is known for two things – her role as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years and her insane math skills. This brainiac had a bit of trouble transitioning into serious adult roles, and her career after Winnie is a big mix of things. She’s scored several small roles in films and on television shows, has done some voice work, and has published several books that are designed to encourage young girls to engage with mathematics. While she might not be an A-Lister, everyone who grew up during The Wonder Years has a soft spot for McKellar, even though she looks completely different as an adult.
Abigail Breslin isn’t even 20 years old, but the transformation that she’s undergone in the past few years is absolutely staggering. Simply put, puberty finally hit the precocious childhood starlet – and it brought some big changes. She got her start at a very young age with roles in films like Signs and Raising Helen, before earning the role that put her on the map – Olive Hoover in indie hit Little Miss Sunshine. She had several roles fit for a pre-teen after her sunshine success, and is slowly starting to transition to a more serious, adult actor. While she’s likely grateful for the opportunities her earlier roles granted her, the average person would likely have no clue that the younger, nerdy Breslin and the current bombshell Breslin are the same person.
Okay, ladies, admit it – every woman who grew up in the 90s loved Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and every woman was completely obsessed with a certain Harvey Kinkle. Well, if you thought he was dreamy back then, wait until you see him now. He’s no longer sporting his trademark floppy Harvey hair, and he looks totally different. Plus – as if you needed a reason to like the former teen heartthrob even more – he’s stepped away from acting in the past decade or so in order to focus on a music career. That’s right – everyone’s favorite high school hunk turned into a musician. That’s the stuff teenaged girl dreams were made of.
There’s no way anyone else would have earned the number one spot on this list. The transformation that British actor Matthew Lewis has undergone is so astounding that people are starting to call big transformations ‘Neville Longbottom-ing.’ For those who aren’t Harry Potter fans (which, if you’re not, we maybe can’t be friends), Lewis played the ultra-dorky Neville Longbottom. While his character starts out a bit of a bumbling fool, he evolves over the course of the books and movies and becomes a more self-assured, skilled young man. And boy did Lewis ever evolve. He transformed from a slightly chubby, gap-toothed child to an absolute hottie. Let’s be honest – of all the Harry Potter guys, he’s pretty much the last person we thought would turn out hot.