Hollywood’s child stars – then and now…

Would you recognise Elliott from ET or the girl from the Grinch if you passed them in the street today? Now's your chance to find out...

Macaulay Culkin


With his penchant for booby traps and grievous bodily harm, Home Alone’s Kevin McCallister made Macualay Culkin a star. But, after roles in Richie Rich and The Pagemaster, he succumbed to the pressures of fame and went off the rails in his teenage years with an arrest for drug possession in 2004. Since then he’s most notably popped up as a key witness at the Michael Jackson trial in 2005 and in magazine pieces about ex-girlfriend, Mila Kunis, who he split with in 2011. He currently keeps a low profile but, apparently, DJs at clubs in New York… and sings on boats in Bristol

Haley Joel Osment

Hayley Joel Osment could see dead people in breakthrough thriller The Sixth Sense, but not the slow, disappointing death of his career once the Oscar-nominated actor hit puberty. Once described by film critic Roger Ebert as “one of the best actors now working,” he saw his star starting to wane in Hollywood after Steven Spielberg’s 2001 sci-fi film, Artificial Intelligence: A.I. Since then, he’s stuck to voice acting, an unsuccessful stint on Broadway and last year’s Wake The Dead, a film about two medical students who try to bring people back to life. Ironic.

Mara Wilson

At the age of six, Mara Wilson charmed the world as the cute-as-a-button daughter of Robin Williams’ Mrs Doubfire. Hits such as Christmas classic Miracle On 34th Street and the film of Roald Dahl’s Matilda followed but then Wilson did something few child stars do: quit showbiz. Instead, she pursued theatre, saying last year that film acting is not her “thing.” “Here is something no real celebrity will ever tell you,” said, “film acting is not very fun… In terms of sheer adrenaline, film has absolutely nothing on theatre.”

Henry Thomas

While he may never again hit the heights of winning a Golden Globe at 11 or crying on cue (a nightmare for his mum, surely) for Steven Spielberg, Henry Thomas has maintained a respectable acting career since his role as E.T’s Elliott. After he became a “stupid kind of famous” at nine, he went back home to Texas until heading back to Hollywood at 17 to achieve steady bit-part work in Legends of the Fall (1994), Gangs of New York (2002) and various other low-key projects.

Robert MacNaughton

Talking of E.T, Robert MacNaughton’srole as Elliott’s older brother, Michael, earned him a Young Artist Award for Best Supporting Actor but his acting ambitions were simply not to be. Having landed a few roles in TV and film (including the lead in 1983 film, I Am The Cheese), he mainly worked in theatre until giving up acting in 2002 to work as a mail handler in Phoenix, Arizona, where he lives with his wife and son. He also happens to have very silly hair.

Taylor Momsen

At 7, Taylor Momsen’s Cindy Lou Who, whose hair resembled some sort of avant-garde sculpture, was the picture of child-like innocence as the star of Dr Suess’ How The Grinch Stole Chistmas. A few kiddie roles later (including Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams) and she took a role in the racy Gossip Girl as Jenny Humphrey before fronting rock band The Pretty Reckless. Her hair, sadly, has since collapsed.. 

Peter Ostrum

Although the ‘70s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie & The Chocolate Factory will always serve as a time capsule for Gene Wilder’s meme-friendly Willy Wonka, Peter Ostrum was the star. As Charlie Bucket, Ostrum excelled at staring wistfully at the set and successfully wearing a turtle neck jumper. This foray into the glamour of Hollywood however did not enchant Ostrum, who gave up acting right then and there to become a vet instead. 

Frankie Muniz

Frankie Muniz was incredibly famous for playing the lead in Malcolm in the Middle, and was dubbed “one of Hollywood’s most bankable teens” in his hey-day. However despite his success and adoration, his forays in TV & film ended up paving a path, oddly enough, into competitive motorsports. After winning a novelty competition as a celebrity guest, Muniz took on the role professionally, and these days his sporting trophies take centre stage, as his Nickelodeon Awards sit sadly at the back of the mantelpiece.

Jonathan Lipnicki

Jonathan Lipnicki thrived in high profile roles as a young boy, from Jerry Macguire to his more famous turn in Stuart Little. Now 22, (yes, the kid from Stuart Little is 22. Your zimmer frame’s in the post.), Lipnicki ditched the adorable spectacles for a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu, and now works in ‘dark independent films’ that we’re clearly not culturally robust enough to have heard of.

Michael Conner Humphreys


You’ll know Michael Conner Humphreys as the little leg-brace version of Forest Gump. After running into the distance until he turned into the more famous incarnation of Tom Hanks, Humphreys’ quit acting and joined the army, much like his adult counterpart does in the film. Hanks reportedly took his famous Southern drawl from Humphrey’s own accent.