The popularity of Netflix’s Stranger Things has reignited the worldwide fascination with child stars. It’s wild to see how talented these children are and exciting to imagine what their future careers will be like.
Unfortunately, some child stars never reach that future career. The exposure to fame and fortune at a young age can destroy careers and, in some cases, lives.
The only way to avoid that grim future is to learn from the past. Here are eight of the biggest child stars destroyed by fame.
By the age of 10, Amanda Bynes had become a TV star, starring in a string of successful shows beginning with Nickelodeon’s All That in 1996. She successfully transitioned to teenage star with WB’s What I Like About You in 2002 and a series of hit films including What a Girl Wants and She’s the Man. In 2007, she had her biggest success with Hairspray, playing Tracy Turnblad’s best friend Penny Pingleton.
It seemed like Bynes’ movie career had a bright future. But it all went south when she was fired from the Owen Wilson comedy Hall Pass, allegedly for not coming prepared to set. She publicly announced her retirement from acting in 2010, saying it wasn’t fun anymore.
In the next few years, she was arrested for drunk driving as well as an alleged hit-and-run incident. After a public meltdown and alleged shoplifting in 2014, Bynes was placed under a conservatorship. She tweeted that she was diagnosed as bipolar but has since recanted and blamed her behavior on drugs, claiming she mostly abused Adderall.
Now, things are looking up for the 33-year-old Bynes. She continued her mental health treatment in 2019, and graduated from fashion design school that May. In September, she announced her return to Instagram, debuting a new hot pink hairdo.
Dustin Diamond was cast as Screech on Saved by the Bell (originally titled Good Morning, Miss Bliss) when he was just 11 years old. The child actor seemed to have hit the jackpot for job security, playing the role on the show and its spinoffs from 1988-2000.
But he didn’t have much of a career after that franchise ended when he was 23 years old. Faced with mounting debts and dwindling opportunities, Diamond eventually got desperate.
Inspired by Paris Hilton, he decided to release a sex tape in 2006. He didn’t exactly get rich, and the indignities kept coming when he admitted that he used a stunt double.
In 2009, he released an autobiography full of lurid tales from the set of Saved by the Bell. However, he since admitted that almost all of those stories, just like his sex tape, were fake.
Is it possible for a child star to destroy one career and create a new one? Lindsay Lohan might have just pulled it off!
Lohan broke out as a star at the age of 12 in the Disney film The Parent Trap (1998). She seemed to be the rare child star who would successfully transition to adult roles. Her hit 2004 film Mean Girls, written by Tina Fey, came out when she was 18 years old. She even had a successful music career for a while, releasing two hit albums.
The success led to trouble though, and most of her future appearances were tabloid reports about drug use and police run-ins. By 2007, when she won a Golden Raspberry for playing a stripper in I Know Who Killed Me, her mainstream career essentially dried up. Her most high profile project since then is perhaps her much-maligned role as Elizabeth Taylor in the 2012 Lifetime TV movie Liz & Dick.
Now 33, Lohan might be headed for a comeback, though. She is a judge on the Australian version of The Masked Singer and even working on a new album.
For some child stars, fame is an overnight thing. That was certainly the case for Edward Furlong. At age 13, he played the young John Connor in the hit 1991 movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and his life was never the same.
By the time he was 16, Furlong had legally emancipated from his parents. This allowed him to make some unconventional choices, including dating his 29-year-old onset tutor from Terminator 2, Jackie Domac.
She became his manager, and Furlong spiraled into drugs and alleged domestic abuse. At an all-time low, he was reportedly replaced as John Connor by Nick Stahl for Terminator 3 in 2003. Now 42 and perhaps having turned a corner, fans can finally see him appear as John Connor again in Terminator: Dark Fate.
Child stars often start their careers early. And it doesn’t get much earlier than Jonathan Brandis, who was a model from the age of only two.
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, he appeared in a variety of TV shows, including Full House, The Wonder Years, and Who’s the Boss. He even landed lead roles in films including Ladybugs (opposite Rodney Dangerfield), The NeverEnding Story II, and the 1990 TV mini-series It, based on the Stephen King novel.
However, his longest-running and most well-known role is that of Lucas in the 1993 NBC TV show SeaQuest DSV. But when that show was canceled in 1996, Brandis had a lot of difficulty finding other acting roles.
Eventually, he could only get a bit role in the movie Hart’s War. Seemingly despondent about his career, Brandis tragically killed himself in 2003 at the age of 27.
Corey Haim, along with his friend and fellow actor Corey Feldman, basically defined the 1980s. Haim had gotten his start in TV at the age of 10. By the time he became a teenager, he was a full-fledged star in ’80s movies like The Lost Boys and License to Drive. However, his adult career was less successful, and he starred in a number of forgettable theatrical roles that gave way to forgettable video game and direct-to-video roles.
Over time, Corey Haim developed a prescription drug addiction. This kept him from truly reviving his career. He eventually died of pneumonia at the tender age of 38 in 2010. Sadly, in his 2013 autobiography, Haim’s friend Corey Feldman claimed that both he and Haim had been sexually abused as young actors.
What’s the quickest way to child stardom? Why, starring in one of the most famous franchises on the planet!
Jake Lloyd played young Anakin Skywalker in 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, one of the most successful of films of all time. And this would theoretically be the key to a long and prolific career for the 10-year-old Lloyd. It didn’t go down like that, though. He did voice work for several Star Wars video games and had a couple of film roles.
But by 2001, a mere two years after his Star Wars debut, he retired from acting. According to Lloyd, this was due to a combination of fame-driven pressure (such as 60 interviews in one day) and bullying from his classmates. It didn’t help that he had been dubbed “Mannequin Skywalker” by the press for his supposedly wooden performance.
In 2015, he made all the wrong headlines when he was arrested in South Carolina. Charges included reckless driving, resisting arrest, and driving without a license. He spent 10 months in jail and was then moved into psychiatric care for schizophrenia in 2016.
Jaimee Foxworth may not seem like a household name now. However, she once starred in one of the biggest TV shows of the ’90s, Family Matters. She played Judy, the youngest daughter of the Winslow family, starting in 1989 when she was just 10 years old.
You probably remember her character’s older brother Eddie and older sister Laura, the object of Steve Urkel’s affections, better and here’s why. After season 4, her character was written out of the show with no explanation. In a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, the TV family simply acted like they had never had a third child. Behind the scenes, Foxworth’s firing was attributed to budgetary reasons.
By age 19, Foxworth was broke and entered the adult film industry. She developed a drug and alcohol addiction, and appeared on Celebrity Rehab in 2008. However, Foxworth claims she got sober when she found out she was pregnant. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy in 2009 and appeared well in an interview with Oprah in 2014. Leaving her child acting days behind her, Foxworth is happy to be a full-time mom.