Being a famous child actor in Hollywood acts like a double-edged sword. While fame and money do come at an early age, your life comes under unnecessary scrutiny, and more often than not you lose your way while transitioning from that innocent kid stage to a mature adult. That’s not to say it is Hollywood who did this to you, for the number of people who lose their way while growing up, outside the boundaries of Hollywood, is much more humongous. But if, once upon a time, you were a well-known child actor, then what you do years later is still sought and reported and commented upon. Hollywood, over the years, has brought forth amazing young talents, and considering that as you go up the top, the pyramid starts peaking, many of these child actors eventually move on to lead lives outside the world of cinema. Good luck to them. But then there are a few of those who stay on the course of acting, and remain in the public’s scrutiny, and while they may miss a step here and there, eventually they come out just fine. The list of such child prodigies who turned into successful adult actors is also not too small, but here we tell you about these three talented women who stayed the course, delighting us with some wonderful acting performances along the way.
Talking of starting off a career early, Jodie Foster appeared in front of the cameras for the first time at the age of 3. Yep, just 3 years old! This was for a television commercial and soon after she starred in few episodes for various TV series, but never playing a central character. At age 7, Jodie Foster appeared in her first movie, which was a TV movie titled Menace on the Mountain. A few more television appearances followed until Foster had her first film with a prominent role, produced by Disney, called Napoleon and Samantha. Foster played the role of Samantha and when the movie released in July 1972, she was nine years old, and looked as adorable as a kid can.
(Jodie Foster in Napoleon and Samantha)
A few more movies followed, though Jodie Foster still remained more prominent in television shows. And then in 1976, a breakout performance would make her an instant hit, and throw her more in the scrutiny of the public eye. Foster starred as Iris Steensma, a preteen prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, for which she received her first Academy Award. At the time of the film’s release, Foster was only 13! Her role in Taxi Driver has to stand out as one of the greatest performances by a supporting actor in cinematic history. Even though Foster had years’ of acting behind her, this was still a serious drama film with no resemblance to the bright colour palettes of a Disney production. In fact, Foster was subjected to psychological testing, before being given the part, to ensure that she would not be emotionally scarred by her role. There are said to have been more than 250 applicants for the role of Iris, and some intense auditioning got Foster the part. Foster was upto the mark from the word go, putting in a flawless display, which really propelled her into serious acting. A star was indeed born then! At the age of 14, Foster also became the then youngest host of Saturday Night Live.
(Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver)
Foster subsequently started making the transition to adult roles, and even though her early films got bombed, she won the Academy Award for her role in 1988’s The Accused which can be called her breakthrough role in the new phase of her life. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) got her another Academy Award, and there was no looking back for Jodie Foster. The little 3-year old who started off as a television artist, is now 50 years of age, having bagged two Academy Awards (out of four nominations), three BAFTA Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, including the recently awarded Cecil B DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. While she’s been seen less on the big screen lately, her latest appearance being in this year’s Elysium and no future projects known yet, there’s a directorial movie Money Monster that has been announced to be her next venture. Jodie Foster has already given so much to the world of cinema, and nothing further can be asked. But if she were to find her joy of acting again, and be a frequent visitor to the big screen, Hollywood would certainly benefit.
(Jodie Foster in Elysium)
They call her “the comeback kid”. Drew Barrymore comes from a lineage of American stage and cinema actors. So it’s not really a wonder that the acting genes run deep in her DNA. If you thought Jodie Foster started off early, then you what would say to this? Drew Barrymore began her stint in front of the camera even before she had completed a year in this world. To be precise, she was 11 months old. As the tale goes, Barrymore auditioned for a dog food commercial, and when she got bitten by the dog, she started laughing rather than crying, which got her the part. She then starred in a TV film, before becoming part of a feature film called Altered States at the age of 5. So she had some acting experience packed into her when a certain Steven Spielberg came calling and cast her as the young adorable Gertie in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Who can forget Gertie? As if E.T. the alien wasn’t adorable enough, Spielberg multiplied the cuteness factor by bringing out a charming and endearing performance from a young Drew Barrymore. The emotional farewell between E.T. and Gertie would have choked may a throats, no matter how old you were. Barrymore was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer for this memorable role. Barrymore instantly shot to fame, the loved child prodigy, the movie’s rocketing success no doubt contributing to Barrymore’s fame. She even hosted Saturday Night Live at the age of seven, a record that stands to date. Things could have only gotten better, right?
(Drew Barrymore in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial)
A young Drew Barrymore was on a roll and her next set of movies, be it Firestarter or Irreconcilable Differences, won her much critical acclaim. But somewhere along the way, she lost her path in her personal life. Smoking even before she turned 10, was followed by drinking and drug problems, which got her into rehab at at the age of 14. Then a suicide attempt got her into rehab for a second stint, and it appeared to be another tragic tale of how talent went down the drain. But somehow Barrymore got back on her feet, and did quite a number of movies in her late teens. Not great work, nothing award-winning, but it seemed she was starting to get back into the game. And it is somewhere after she turned 20, that Barrymore became a success story again. She had a cameo in Scream and then became a favourite casting for romantic comedies appearing in the likes of Wishful Thinking, The Wedding Singer, Home Fries, and then later on in 50 First Dates and Music & Lyrics. Drew Barrymore also produced and starred in the box-office success Charlie’s Angels (2000) and its sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, probably the height of her second-stint as an actress. Now at 38 years of age, Drew Barrymore is a more mature actress with her darker days well behind her. While some might say that she peaked too early, don’t forget she’s still around and maybe there is another successful run yet to come as an actress, and maybe even as a producer. She would be seen pairing up with Adam Sandler again in the rom-com The Familymoon slated for a May 2014 release. We wish good luck to the comeback kid!
(Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates)
Unlike the above two actresses, Natalie Portman had no early start as an adolescent in the world of acting. She did take dancing classes at the age of four and turned down a chance to be a child model at the age of ten to focus on acting. She also auditioned for an Off-Broadway show as a youngster. But her career in the movies began when she auditioned for the role of a child, Mathilda, who befriends a hitman in a movie which later on became a cult hit, Léon: The Professional. Put together with Jean Reno, Portman could not have had a better tutor on sets to begin her career with. But the ease with she has enacted her range of emotions in this movie, from happiness to despair, from hate to love, from shock to awe, that it comes as a surprise to know this was Portman’s first role in a feature film. Mathilda was a well-written character, a little girl who is forced to mature soon due to circumstances, and it did not need just any 12-year old enacting this role, but a 12-year old who could give a performance any acclaimed actress would have to work hard to achieve. Portman did that fantastically well, and her journey had now begun (as of now, Léon: The Professional ranks at #31 on the movie website Imdb).
(Natalie Portman in Léon: The Professional)
Portman had a brief role in the Michael Mann classic Heat and also starred in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You and Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! in her teen days. A brief hiatus followed, before Portman stepped out in a more adult role as Padmé Amidala, the mother of Luke Skywalker, in George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy. At the time of the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Portman was still a month short of turning 18. In the early part of the 2000’s, Natalie Portman reserved time only for shooting the Star Wars movies and dedicated the rest of her time to complete her degree in psychology at Harvard, which she eventually did in 2003. She famously once quoted, “I don’t care if [college] ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Once back on the acting stage, Portman has been back at her best, being Oscar nominated for her performance in 2005’s Closer and eventually winning the Oscar for her role in 2011’s Black Swan. There have been numerous other strong performances, either as Evey in V for Vendetta or Jane Foster in Thor. She’s set to reprise her role in the sequel to Thor this year, and would be seen next in Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups and a western-action film Jane Got a Gun in 2014. Natalie Portman is the ideal child actor-turned-movie star, the one who has managed her personal and professional ambitions well. Aged 32, Portman still has a long way to go, and keeping in mind her talent on-screen, she could well remain in the limelight for a long time. Kudos, Ms. Portman!