Celebrities You Forgot Were Child Stars
Lots of actors start their careers early in life, but their first roles aren’t always very memorable. For many, it isn’t until they reach adulthood that they really make their mark in show business.
The following celebs are well known for their successful films, televisions series, and even musical prowess — but you may have forgotten that they got their start at a very young age (a few of them were still in diapers!).
A certain Deadpool star started his career in a Canadian teen soap opera when he was just 15.
Scarlett Johansson Started Acting at Age 8
Scarlett Johansson grew up in New York City and started acting as a young girl. The future star made her acting debut in the off-Broadway show Sophistry alongside Ethan Hawke. She was just eight years old. Johansson then appeared in several films, including North, Just Cause, If Lucy Fell,and Manny & Lo. She also starred in 1998’s The Horse Whisperer.
2003 was a big year for Johansson. She received two Golden Globe Award nominations for The Girl With A Pearl Earring and Lost In Translation, which is considered her breakthrough role. She’s since appeared in The Avengers, Ghost In The Shell, and Rough Night.
Stephen Spielberg Was Impressed By Christian Bale’s Acting Range
English actor Christian Bale moved a lot as a young child because his father was a commercial pilot. His acting debut was a 1983 commercial for cereal followed by a role in the West End show The Nerd. He caught Stephen Spielberg’s attention after appearing in the NBC miniseries Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.
That led to Bale being cast in the director’s 1997 film Empire of the Sun. The child star received an award by the National Board of Review for Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor. While he nearly quit acting, Bale went on to star in American Psycho, Batman, and other top films as an adult.
Future Deadpool Actor Ryan Reynolds Got His Start On a Canadian Teen Soap Opera
Ryan Reynolds was 15 years old when he landed his first role in the Canadian teen soap Hillside (known as Fifteen in the United States). The Nickelodeon show taped in Florida. After it ended, Reynolds returned to Canada and appeared in some made-for-TV movies and had a few small roles before he quit took an acting break.
In the late ’90s, he moved to LA and jump-started his career with Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place. He’s since appeared in several films, including Deadpool, Green Lantern, Blade: Trinity, The Amityville Horror, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, and Safehouse.
Jennifer Lawrence is a Hollywood A-lister, but the actress’ first role was actually on a small sitcom back in the day.
Natalie Portman Was Discovered In a Pizza Parlor
Gaumont Buena Vista International
Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman moved to New York City with her parents when she was a young girl. When she was just 11 years old, an agent discovered her at a pizza place. She was encouraged to pursue modeling but chose acting instead, making her film debut in 1994’s Léon: The Professional.
She followed up with roles in 1995’s Heat, 1996’s Beautiful Girls and Mars Attacks! Some of her most famous roles include Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequels as well as a ballet dancer in Black Swan. She also impressed as Jacqueline Kennedy in 2016’s Jackie.
Ryan Gosling & Justin Timberlake Met On Set Of The All New Mickey Mouse Club
Walt Disney Productions
Before he was an international singing sensation, Justin Timberlake appeared in The All New Mickey Mouse Club alongside Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, and Christina Aguilera. At 14, Justin became a member of the boy band *NSYNC. He transitioned to acting and now his film credits include hits like The Social Network, Friends With Benefits and Trolls.
Meanwhile, Canadian-born Gosling beat 17,000 other aspiring actors for a role on The All New Mickey Mouse Club. With no formal acting training, he went on to star in many films including the classic romantic The Notebook. He’s also appeared in La La Land, Blade Runner 2049, and First Man.
Jennifer Lawrence Appeared On a Sitcom Before Launching Her Film Career
Turner Broadcasting System
Jennifer Lawrence’s acting career began when she was 14 years old. She went to Manhattan and was received well by one of the city’s talent agencies. She spent the summer in the city and appeared in some commercials while traveling back and forth to her hometown, Louisville, Kentucky.
Eventually, Lawrence moved to Los Angeles and appeared on several TV shows before landing a role on The Bill Engvall Show and winning a Young Artist Award for Outstanding Young Performer. She later won an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook and has appeared in The Hunger Games franchise, X-Men, and multiple other films.
Fergie Voiced The Role Of Sally In Peanuts & Starred On Kids Incorporated
Singer Fergie got her start in entertainment as a voice-over actor, playing Sally in two 1980’s made-for-TV Peanuts cartoons (It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown and Snoopy’s Getting Married, Charlie Brown) and several episodes of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. She was also on the TV show Kids Incorporated for six years before transitioning to a music career.
Fergie was a member of the female trio Wild Orchid before joining The Black Eyed Peas in 2003. Along the way, she’s appeared in a few films, including Grindhouse, Planet Terror, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Nine,and Marmaduke. She also had a voice role in The Cleveland Show.
Jake Gyllenhaal Thinks Child Actors Should Be Allowed To Behave As Kids
Jake Gyllenhaal, whose godmother is Halloween actress Jamie Lee Curtis, was just 11 years old when he made his movie debut alongside Billy Crystal in 1991’s City Slickers. His career flourished in the late ’90s and early aughts, with films such as October Sky and Donnie Darko.
He’s most known for films including Brokeback Mountain and The Day After Tomorrow. During a 2016 interview with Fox411, he said: “I think any professional business for a child where they’re not allowed to necessarily be a child is always dangerous. You know? I think kids should be allowed to be kids. But I also think that I always believe in an education.”
Did you catch Kate Winslet in this British sci-fi series?
Kate Winslet Got Her Start On a British Sci-Fi Series
English actress Kate Winslet grew up with stage actors as parents and lived around the theater. She was only 11 years old when she made her acting debut in a commercial for a children’s cereal. Then she began taking acting lessons and eventually enrolled in a performing arts high school. In 1991 she starred in the British sci-fi series Dark Season.
At 17 she appeared in Heavenly Creatures, followed by Sense and Sensibility (for which she received an Academy Award nomination). She’s known for films such as Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Revolutionary Road.
Laurence Fishburne Lied About His Age To Get a Role On Apocalypse Now
Laurence Fishburne was not professionally trained when he got his start in theater at the age of 10. He starred on the soap opera One Life To Live for three seasons, starting at age 12. His film debut was 1975’s Cornbread, Earl and Me. Then he made Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in the Philippines.
In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, he said of Apocalypse Now: “I was 14 years old and I’d lied about my age to get the role. I haven’t had another film top it.” Other popular films include The Cotton Club, Boyz n the Hood, What’s Love Got To Do With It, and The Matrix.
Neil Patrick Harris Earned a Golden Globe Nomination For His Debut Role
Many remember Neil Patrick Harris played a teen doctor on Doogie Howser, MD, but he got his start in acting much earlier. He got the acting bug in fourth grade. While attending drama camp in New Mexico, he caught the attention of playwright Mark Medoff, who later gave him a role in Clara’s Heart, opposite Whoopi Goldberg.
Harris received a Golden Globe nomination for the 1988 role, leading to the Doogie Howser gig. Harris concentrated on theater for a while before a moving to the screen. In 2005, he starred in the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother. He currently stars in A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Started Acting Before He Started Kindergarten
When he was just four years old, Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Before long, he was picked up by an agent and starred in several commercials for products such as Pop-Tarts and Cocoa Puffs. He then appeared in made-for-TV films, followed by the Dark Shadows TV series and the film A River Runs Through It.
The ’90s were good for Gordon-Levitt, who appeared in Angels in the Outfield, The Juror, 10 Things I Hate About You, and 3rd Rock From The Sun. His most recent films include Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Don Jon, and 50/50.
Reese Witherspoon Impressed Critics With Man On The Moon
Reese Witherspoon started modeling when she was just seven years old. She went on to appear in local TV commercials and later won a Ten-State Talent Fair at the age of 11. Her first big role was 1991 film The Man on the Moon, for which she garnered great reviews. She planned on putting acting on hold to attend college but left academia to appear in Fear and Freeway.
Witherspoon has starred in numerous films over the course of her career, including Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama, Walk the Line, and Wild. Her 2017 HBO series Big Little Lies, which she starred in and produced, was a huge hit.
Katherine Heigl Was a Child Model Before She Got Into Acting
Buena Vista Pictures
Katherine Heigl started her show business career as a child model. She starred in several commercials and ads for Cheerios, Sears, and Lord & Taylor. Her first film role was 1992’s That Night, which gave her the acting bug. She landed her first starring role in 1994’s My Father the Hero opposite Gerard Depardieu.
She continued to model as well as act and is known for TV shows and films such as Roswell, Grey’s Anatomy, Knocked Up, 27 Dresses,and One for the Money. Her latest role is playing attorney Samantha Wheeler on the USA series Suits.
Josh Hutcherson’s Family Moved To LA So He Could Pursue His Acting Dreams
Josh Hutcherson knew he wanted to act even before he entered kindergarten. His family relocated from Kentucky to Los Angeles when he was nine to help him achieve his goal. At age 10 he landed his first role on the made-for-TV film House Blend. He also appeared in several TV episodes.
In 2005, he earned a Young Artist Award for “Leading Young Actor” in Zathura. He continued to star in several other children’s films. As an adult, Hutcherson has appeared in The Hunger Games franchise as well as Red Dawn, 7 Days in Havana, and Epic. He currently stars in the series Future Man.
Mike Myers Started Acting In Commercials At Age 2
Mike Myers was just two years old when he started appearing in commercials. His first acting credit is a 1975 guest appearance on the Canadian sitcom King of Kensington. He was just 12 years old. While he had bit parts as a child, his career didn’t really take off until after he graduated from high school.
Myers joined the Second City Canadian touring company before eventually becoming a member of the cast of Saturday Night Live. His Wayne’s World sketches were so popular, they made two films featuring his and Dana Carvey’s characters. Other famous films include the Austin Powers movies and The Cat in the Hat.
Co-Star Laurence Olivier Dubbed Diane Lane The New Grace Kelly
Diane Lane started out in theater at age six, appearing in several productions. When she was 13, she starred alongside Sir Laurence Olivier in 1979’s A Little Romance. Her co-star was so impressed by her work that he dubbed her the new Grace Kelly. Time magazine called her an “acting sensation.” She later starred in Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, and Splash before taking an acting hiatus at age 19.
Lane got back into the business a few years later. She’s known for numerous films, including The Perfect Storm, The Glass House, Unfaithful and Under the Tuscan Sun. She currently stars in The Romanoffs.
Cynthia Nixon: From Little Darling To Aspiring Politician
When Cynthia Nixon was nine years old she appeared on To Tell The Truth, a game show that her mother worked on. She segued into acting at age 12, starring in an after-school special. Her big-screen debut was 1980’s Little Darlings opposite Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol. She later appeared on Broadway and several other TV and film projects.
Nixon made a name for herself as one of the four stars of the HBO comedy Sex & The City. She has continued to act in several projects and announced her campaign to run for Governor of New York in 2018. She lost in the Democratic primary.
Hayden Panettiere Followed In Her Mother’s Soap Opera Footsteps
Hayden Panettiere’s mother was responsible for getting her daughter into show biz before her first birthday. After appearing in commercials, she landed a role on the soap opera One Life To Live when she was four years old. She later starred on Guiding Light. It didn’t hurt that Panettiere’s mother was a former soap star.
She received a Young Artist Award for Young Actress Age Ten or Under in a made-for-TV movie before playing the daughter of Ally McBeal on the titular show. Panettiere is also known for the NBC show Heroes as well as the films Remember the Titans, Racing Stripes, and I Love You Beth Cooper.
Joaquin Phoenix Followed His Siblings’ Footsteps Into Acting
Joaquin Phoenix and his siblings, including the late River Phoenix, were born and raised by Children of God missionaries. When he was six, his parents settled in Los Angeles, where they found an agent to represent their five children. Joaquin made his acting debut on River’s sitcom, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
He then appeared in SpaceCamp, Russkies,and Parenthood. After a brief hiatus and following his brother’s death, Joaquin returned to acting. He is most known for films including To Die For,as well as three films for which he received Academy Award nominations: Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master.