Child Stars Who Left Hollywood For Good
Child stars are a big part of Hollywood. Let’s face it, not every movie can feature a cast that is made entirely of adults. Despite the child labor laws, kids have been featured prominently in film and television throughout modern history. That includes networks like Nickelodeon, which are devoted entirely to kids programming.
But sometimes, these young child stars hit big at an early age and then sort of disappear shortly after. Let’s look at a whole bunch of kids you may remember from your favorite movies and TV shows that either quietly settled down or walked away from Hollywood entirely.
1. Daniel Tay
You will remember Daniel Tay as James Caan’s son in Elf, or Will Ferrell’s half-brother, Michael. Elf was Tay’s first big role, but he disappeared shortly after. He has popped up here and there, playing the role of Max in the 2006 comedy Beer League, but hasn’t done much other than lend his voice in a handful of video games.
Tay is currently in his mid-20s.
Next: She appeared alongside many big stars.
2. Amber Scott
Most people only know Amber Scott as Maggie, Peter Pan’s daughter in the early-90s fantasy classic Hook. She was just 7 years old at the time, which makes her performance in the role somewhat impressive. It’s hard to get a 7-year-old to sit still for five minutes, much less remember lines and film a major motion picture featuring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts.
Scott appeared a few years later in a TV documentary titled American Experience and then dropped out of acting entirely. She graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 2006.
Next: She is very memorable from a handful of ’90s movies.
3. Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson first popped up on the Hollywood radar in the remake of the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street, and later went on to star in the children’s classic Matilda in 1996. But after a few small roles, Wilson pretty much disappeared from Hollywood for over a decade.
This allowed the young actress to focus on education and simply just being a kid. She has since resurfaced on social media and is focused on her writing, though she has made brief on-screen appearances, such as on an episode of Broad City.
Next: She appeared in one major Spielberg classic.
4. Ariana Richards
Ariana Richards appeared in the movie Tremors in 1990, and later became truly famous as Lex in Jurassic Park. She reprised her role briefly in Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and made a handful of other notable appearances on TV.
But in 2001, she walked away from the Hollywood lifestyle at the age of 22. Richards graduated with a degree in Drama and Art from Skidmore College in New York and is a very talented portrait artist.
Next: One of Richards’ most prominent co-stars.
5. Joseph Mazzello
Richards’ co-star in Jurassic Park, Joseph Mazzello, also dropped out of the major motion picture scene shortly after The Lost World. Although, it’s not totally fair to say that he left for good. Mazzello did stay somewhat active in acting, even earning a degree from USC in Cinema and Television Production.
But most of Mazzello’s work in recent years is just short appearances in TV shows or made-for-TV movies. His biggest gig since Jurassic Park came in 2013, when he had a minor role in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Next: The son of Dan and Roseanne.
6. Michael Fishman
Michael Fishman was never a movie star, although he was an extremely prominent child actor. Although he was absent from the pilot episode, Fishman appeared in 220 episodes of the hit, 1990s blue collar TV show, Roseanne, as the youngest son, D.J. That began in 1988, which he was just seven years old, and ran until 1997.
After the show ended, he made a handful of minor appearances, including an episode of Seinfeld. He quit acting to pursue a career in baseball, and eventually ended up coaching high school ball. Fishman has since returned to acting, and will appear in an upcoming baseball movie titled Undrafted. He’s also reprising his role of D.J. Conner on the Roseanne revival.
Next: From Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to cars.
7. Ross Malinger
Ross Malinger first came to Hollywood fame with the role of Harvey in Kindergarten Cop, and then went on to have a major role in Sleepless in Seattle with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. But as he grew up, the starring roles became fewer and fewer for Malinger.
He had recurring roles on several TV series, including The Simple Life and Recess, but was functionally done with acting by the age of 17. Malinger now runs Automotive Legends in Malibu, California.
Next: This former child star earned his JD from Yale.
8. Charlie Korsmo
Charlie Korsmo hit big at an early age, appearing in Dick Tracy in 1990 and then the Bill Murray comedy What About Bob? a year later. But Korsmo’s biggest role came as Peter Pan’s son, Jack, in Hook. But much like his cinema-sibling, Amber Scott, Korsmo disappeared from Hollywood shortly after. He popped up in a minor role in the 1998 teen movie Can’t Hardly Wait, but that’s it.
At least Korsmo has a solid reason, though. He quit acting to get a bachelors degree in physics from MIT, and later his JD at Yale. He’s now the Assistant Professor of Law at the Case Western Reserve University of Law.
Next: Remember this annoying red-head?
9. Jason Zimbler
Jason Zimbler is another former child star that comes from the television world. He was the red-headed, annoying little brother on Clarissa Explains It All, a Nickelodeon show from the early ’90s featuring Melissa Joan Hart. The show only ran for three years, but it was extremely popular among its target audience during that time.
Zimbler has zero acting credits following the finale of Clarissa, but graduated from Notre Dame in 1998 and went on to work for HBO. He actually established a support group for former child actors, called Been There, Done That.
Next: He gets unfairly blamed for one awful movie.
10. Jake Lloyd
Although the major problem with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was the unlovable Jar Jar Binks, a lot of the fans’ rage was taken out on poor Jake Lloyd. Of course, nobody ever asked to see Darth Vader as a little boy that frequently yelled, “Yippee!” But keep in mind that Lloyd was just 10 years old at the time.
Despite a solid acting career that boasts a stint on ER and the holiday hit Jingle All the Way, Lloyd appeared in just one movie after The Phantom Menace. He was arrested on multiple counts in 2015, which was apparently related to a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Next: He formed a good relationship with Will Smith at the right time.
11. Ross Bagley
Ross Bagley hit it big at an early age, being cast in the 1994 kids classic, Little Rascals, and later as Nicky in the ’90s hit TV show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His chemistry with co-star Will Smith helped him land a role in the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, but that was pretty much the last we heard of Bagley.
He made a handful of minor appearances on television shows, and then quit acting altogether. Bagley graduated from California State University in 2012 and completed an internship at Overbrook Productions, owned by Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Next: She made one movie, and that’s it.
12. Carrie Henn
Carrie Henn played Newt in Aliens at the age of 10, but that’s it. She literally has no other acting credits, other as appearing as herself in several documentaries about the film. Henn went on to graduate from California State University with a bachelors degree in 2000, and has a job in California working as an elementary teacher.
She must really not have liked acting to have walked away from it, despite a solid performance in Aliens.
Next: The truffle shuffle!
13. Jeff Cohen
Jeff Cohen is best remembered as Chunk from The Goonies, but he made appearances in a handful of other notable productions. He had a recurring role on Family Ties, and also lent his voice to the cartoon series Popeye and Son.
But that was pretty much it for Cohen, who quit acting in 1991 at the age of 17. Cohen graduated from UC Berkeley and now works as an entertainment lawyer. That’s coming a long way from doing the truffle shuffle.
Next: After a long acting break, she recently returned.
14. Andrea Barber
Andrea Barber got her start in acting with a recurring role as Carrie Brady on Days of Our Lives, but she is most remembered for her role as annoying neighbor and D.J. Tanner’s best friend, Kimmy Gibbler, on the ’90s hit sitcom, Full House.
When the show ended in 1995, however, so did Barber’s acting career. She got her bachelors degree from Whittier College and then went to grad school at the University of York in England.
Barber worked at Whittier College in their Office of International Programs for a while, but recently got sucked back into acting with the Full House reboot, Fuller House. She has reprised her role of Kimmy Gibbler, now living with D.J. and Stephanie Tanner.
Next: She went from a family television show to porn.
15. Jaimee Foxworth
Jaimee Foxworth was the adorable little sister on the 1990s hit series, Family Matters. Her character’s name was Judy Winslow, but as the show went on there became less and less screen time for Judy. With Steve Urkel dominating the pop culture world, Foxworth’s character was cut from the show after four years.
She dropped off the map for seven years before resurfacing with an entirely new persona. Foxworth was now known as “Crave,” appearing in a handful of pornographic movies.
Next: No, this child star is not Marilyn Manson.
16. Josh Saviano
Josh Saviano has had to deal with weird rumors in his post-acting life, but mostly stays hidden from the public eye. He played the geeky best friend, Paul Pfeiffer, on The Wonder Years. Saviano appeared in nearly 100 episodes of the show, which ran for six seasons and was a popular coming-of-age sitcom based in the 1960s.
While Fred Savage has gone on to enjoy a moderate acting career, Saviano went 11 years before popping up again on television. He appeared in three episodes of Law & Order: SVU from 2014–2016.
The weirdest note about Saviano is the persistent rumor that he grew up to be Marilyn Manson, which is patently untrue. Saviano graduated from Yale in 1998 and lives in New York City, where he works as an attorney.
Next: This child actor was written out of his own show and never returned.
17. Josh Byrne
Another TV star that disappeared when his show ended. Josh Byrne played the youngest son, Brendan, on ABC’s 1990s hit Step by Step. The show had a seven-season run and featured bigger stars, such as Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers, but it failed to vault any of the children onto a bigger career in acting.
In 1997, the show wrote out Brendan in favor of the younger, cuter Lilly. Since then, Byrne has disappeared into the ether.
Next: This young starlet went totally off the rails.
18. Amanda Bynes
There are few stories of former child stars that are as weird as Amanda Bynes’. She got her big break on a Nickelodeon show, All That, and went on to star on her own series, The Amanda Show. Bynes eventually began to make movies, including titles such as What a Girl Wants, She’s the Man, and Hairspray.
But at the peak of her popularity, Bynes was pretty much done in Hollywood. Drugs, alcohol, social media implosions, and other issues stalled her career before she even turned 30.
Next: He was the biggest tween heartthrob of the ’90s.
19. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas got his start as one of Tim Allen’s three rowdy boys on the 1990s sitcom, Home Improvement. The middle child on the show, Thomas grew to popularity as the series went on until eventually, he chose to leave and seek out a movie career. Among Thomas’ most famous roles include Simba in The Lion King and Tom Sawyer in Tom and Huck.
But Thomas’ movie career didn’t really take off, and he had sporadic roles in film and in TV cameos until 2006, when he effectively quit acting. Since then, Thomas has only been seen a handful of times on Allen’s most recent show, Last Man Standing.
Next: He had one of the most famous acting performances of any child star.
20. Danny Lloyd
Better known as the kid from The Shining. At the age of seven, Danny Lloyd was making his screen debut with Stanley Kubrick’s classic in 1980. The “redrum, redrum,” thing is just one of Danny’s many memorable moments in the movie, and it was overall a great performance from a child that had little (if any) acting experience.
But beyond The Shining, Danny appeared briefly in a TV movie in 1982 and that was it for his acting career. The most recent information available states that Lloyd is now a science teacher at a community college in Missouri.
All information courtesy of IMDB.
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