The Washington Post

Friday list: 10 child stars who grew up in Hollywood unscathed

Jodie Foster: The classic example of child-star-turned-admirable adult. (Matt Sayles/MATT SAYLES/INVISION/AP)

Over and over, the stories we hear about former child stars suggest that it’s practically impossible to navigate the terrain of Hollywood before turning 18 and emerge with your mental faculties and clean criminal record intact.

But it’s worth remembering that some young stars actually do grow up to be responsible, solid and productive adults with only minor bumps and bruises, if any, along the way. Per a suggestion from last week’s Celebritology chat, here’s a (non-comprehensive) list of 10 who did just that.

Jodie Foster

The poster child for former child stars, Foster recently noted in her much-discussed Daily Beast piece that she has maintained a sense of equilibrium by fashioning “rules to control the glaring eyes.” Evidently those rules worked for her.

Ron Howard

Famous from the moment he first said the word “Paw” on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Howard has spent 50-plus years starring in two hugely successful sitcoms, directing movies, winning Academy Awards, producing a mega-list of Hollywood projects and acting as narrator for the Internet’s favorite television show about rich people who do ridiculous imitations of chickens. And he’s done all of it without ever taking a public misstep or sullying his reputation as a super-nice guy.

Jason Bateman


Yet another child star success story from the “Arrested Development” ranks, Bateman went through a rough patch in the ‘90s, after his early success on TV shows like “Silver Spoons” and “The Hogan Family.” But he overcame his self-described problems with alcohol and drugs, and reinvented himself as movie star, solid husband and father and, of course, Michael Bluth.

Wil Wheaton

The kid from “Stand By Me” became the guy on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and, later, a successful blogger, writer and representative of geek culture. Gordie Lachance grew up pretty well.

Natalie Portman

Her “SNL” rap about how much she wants to drink and fight was hilarious. Why? Because Portman has never been the drink-and-fight type. (If Lohan had done something like this the last time she was on “SNL”? Yeah, not as funny.)

Elijah Wood

His first credited movie role was as the much-discussed Video Game Boy #2 in “Back to the Future Part II.” All right, fine. No one really discussed it. A clip of it is, however, on YouTube in a slow-zoom format, a reminder of the poignancy of Wood’s journey from Michael J. Fox arcade brat to hero of the Shire in the “Lord of the Rings” movies.

Peter Billingsley

Messy Marvin and Ralphie Parker became a friend of Jon Favreau and a successful producer. And he did it without ever shooting his, or anyone else’s, eye out.

Molly Ringwald

(Collette Lash)

The queen of the John Hughes teen genre, now a fiction writer, managed to keep her head on straight during a decade when many of her colleagues were not. The fact that, as she recently told me, she’s wary of her own young daughter’s interest in pursuing acting speaks volumes about her sense of celebrity perspective.

Danica McKellar

Winnie Cooper is now a mathematics expert, as well as an example of how to reinvent one’s self in a way that (partially) avoids being solely remembered as the girl who repeatedly won and broke Kevin Arnold’s heart.

Shirley Temple Black

The original, mass-marketed child star, Shirley Temple, now 84, managed to build a life for herself after leaving the “Good Ship Lollypop.” That life included two U.S. ambassadorships, becoming the mother of three children and surviving breast cancer.

That’s why we can still watch old clips of her and revel in her cuteness without any sense of regret over what she became. What she became was a healthy adult who has continued to contribute to society.

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.


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