32 Child Actors That Left Hollywood Behind (And What Happened To Them)

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It is always so cool to see when former child stars continue to act to this day, which also tends to remind us of the former child stars whom we do not see very often anymore, if not at all. It begs the question, what are they doing these days? Well, allow us to provide that answer about the following one-time child actors.

Shirley Temple in The Little Colonel

(Image credit: Fox Film Corporation)

Shirley Temple 

The quintessential name in child stardom is, undeniably, Shirley Temple, who got her start when she was 3 years old and rose to fame as one of the Depression Era’s biggest stars in movies like The Little Colonel and Bright Eyes. Following her 2014 death at the age of 85, Time published an obituary recalling how she quit acting at 21 and went on to pursue a political career that included running for Congress in 1967 and serving as a U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas on Home Improvement

(Image credit: ABC)

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

After getting his big break on Home Improvement, Jonathan Taylor Thomas joined Disney’s original The Lion King voice cast as Young Simba and landed more movie roles that made him one of the ‘90s most popular teen heartthrobs. He still acts on occasion — such as when he reunited with Tim Allen and Patricia Heaton on Last Man Standing, but is rarely seen in public these days.

Mara Wilson in Matilda

(Image credit: TriStar)

Mara Wilson

From her debut in 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire to her leading role in Roald Dahl’s Matilda three years later, Mara Wilson was the talk of the town in her younger years, but did not always enjoy the experience. A negative experience on the set of 2000’s Thomas and the Magic Railroad convinced her to abandon acting (which she has been doing on occasion in more recent years) and pursue her primary claim to fame these days as an author.

Jeff Cohen as Chunk in Goonies

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen of The Goonies cast fame once told The Daily Mail that his career began to slow down when he went from “Chunk to hunk” and started losing weight after hitting puberty. These days, he is an entertainment lawyer and one of his most notable clients is none other than the actor who played Data in the 1985 family adventure classic: Academy Award winner Ke Huy Quan.

Carrie Henn and Sigourney Weaver in Aliens

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Carrie Henn

“Newt” — the young sole survivor of a Xenomorph attack on her colony in 1986’s Aliens — is the first and only acting credit of actor Carrie Henn. She told Tulsa World (via Mirror) that she chose to, instead, follow her true passion in education and succeeded, now working as a teacher.

Peter Ostrum as Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Peter Ostrum 

After scoring the “Golden Ticket” with his very first acting gig by playing the central role of Charlie Bucket in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Peter Ostrum immediately turned his back on Hollywood and has not acted since. However, you could say that he does make some contribution to the chocolate industry today by working as a veterinarian for large animals such as cows, as he explains in a segment of OWN’s Where Are They Now?

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

(Image credit: ABC)

Mary-Kate And Ashley Olsen

After sharing the role of Michelle Tanner on Full House, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were on top of the world and both continued to act well into their early 20s. However, the twins did not return for a cameo in Netflix’s revival sitcom, Fuller House, as their successful fashion careers had already begun to take off.

Angus T. Jones on Two and a Half Men

(Image credit: CBS)

Angus T. Jones

After 10 seasons as Jake Harper on  Two and a Half Men, Angus T. Jones quit the show and acting altogether due to his religious beliefs (which drove him to openly criticize the top-rated sitcom’s raunchy material) and interests in business opportunities. He would later return to the craft, and reunite with Charlie Sheen, by making an uncredited cameo on a 2023 episode of Bookie.

Kay Panabaker in Read It and Weep

(Image credit: Disney)

Kay Panabaker

Along with her older sister, Danielle, Kay Panabaker was one of the most promising Disney Channel stars of her generation, appearing in hit shows like Phil of the Future and leading the made-for-TV movie, Read It and Weep. While Danielle still acts (and is best known for starring in The CW’s The Flash), Kay has left that world behind, but still works for Disney as an animal keeper at at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, according to Naperville Magazine.

Charlie Korsmo in Hook

(Image credit: TriStar)

Charlie Korsmo

Charlie Korsmo is best known for his role in 1991’s Hook as Jack Banning — the son of a Robin Williams’ character, who has forgotten his days as the legendary Peter Pan and grew up to be a lawyer. Coincidentally, after walking away from acting at starring in Can’t Hardly Wait, Korsmo grew up to become an assistant professor of law at Case Western Reserve University, but revealed to the school’s official website that he still gets fan mail from fans of Hook and Dick Tracy.

Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Taylor Momsen 

Years after her feature film debut as Cindy Lou Who in 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas propelled her to fame, Taylor Momsen’s role in the Gossip Girl cast as Jenny Humphrey was put on indefinite hiatus when her style began to change to match her persona as frontwoman for The Pretty Reckless. She ultimately chose to abandon acting completely for music, which she called a lifesaving decision when speaking to People.

Barret Oliver flying high on Falcor, with his fist raised in the air in The NeverEnding Story.

(Image credit: Warner Bros. )

Barret Oliver

You may recognize Barret Oliver as Bastian in 1984’s The NeverEnding Story, the eponymous robotic child from D.A.R.Y.L., David from the Cocoon movies, and even the title role of Tim Burton’s breakout short film, Frankenweenie. He has not acted since the late ‘80s, however, and — as the blog Photo Culture details — he now makes a living as a photographer who specializes in 19th-century printing processes.

Amanda Bynes in What a Girl Wants.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Amanda Bynes 

After getting her big break on Nickelodeon’s kid-friendly answer to SNL, All That, Amanda Bynes got her own sketch comedy series called The Amanda Show, led the sitcom What I Like About You, and starred in movies like She’s the Man and Easy A. After announcing her retirement on Twitter in 2013, concerns over her mental health put her under a conservatorship that ended in 2022 and, the following year, she debuted Amanda Bynes and Paul Simienski: The Podcast, which she canceled after one episode.

Norman D. Golden II in Cop and a Half

(Image credit: Universal)

Norman D. Golden II

Norman D. Golden II made his breakthrough in the 1993 comedy Cop and a Half as a boy who witnesses a murder and agrees to testify if he can be made partner to a cantankerous veteran police officer played by Burt Reynolds. As a profile by The Journal Times reveals, he stopped acting years later to pursue education and nonprofit work but, more recently, has written and produced some projects.

Jennette McCurdy as Sam on iCarly

(Image credit: Nickelodeon)

Jennette McCurdy

As Sam Puckett on iCarly, Jennette McCurdy quickly became one of Nickelodeon’s brightest young stars and, following its ending in 2012, would continue to act for a few years. Ultimately, however, as the author said on her podcast, Empty Inside, “I quit… because I initially didn’t want to do it. My mom put me in it when I was 6, and by… age 10 or 11, I was the main financial support for my family.”

Bill Pullman stands in conversation with Vivica A Fox, Will Smith, and Ross Bagley in Independence Day.

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Ross Bagley

Playing Will Smith’s cousin on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and his stepson in Independence Day made Ross Bagley a bit hit in Hollywood at a young age. According to The Sun, he makes a living in real estate these days, but did not decline the opportunity to appear in Max’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion in 2020.

Ariana Richards in Jurassic Park

(Image credit: Universal)

Ariana Richards

A former child actor whose most famous roles pitted her against man-eating beasts was Ariana Richards of Jurassic Park and Tremors fame. According to the Daily Mail, in the early 2000s she began taking art classes in Pasadena, which led to her current career as a painter.

Danny Lloyd in The Shining

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Danny Lloyd

One of the best performances by a young actor in one of the best horror movies of all time came courtesy of Danny Lloyd as the gifted Danny Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining from 1980. In 2017, the Kentucky biology professor told The Guardian that he realized acting was not for him once he reached his teens, but he would make a small cameo in Doctor Sleep — a sequel to the terrifying classic from 2019.

Alisan Porter in Curly Sue

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Alisan Porter 

After playing the title role of writer and director John Hughes’ 1991 dramedy Curly Sue, Alisan Porter left acting for years, but would return for a few occasional appearances. She experienced a major career resurgence, however, when she was crowned the winner of The Voice in the singing competition show’s tenth season.=

Luis Armand Garcia on George Lopez

(Image credit: ABC)

Luis Armand Garcia

Following his role as Max on George Lopez, Luis Armand’s next and most recent acting credit would mark a reunion with his sitcom dad on NBC’s Lopez vs. Lopez. According to Legit, he spends most of his time performing philanthropic efforts, including for his own foundation, Hands On Horses.

Lisa Jakub in Mrs. Doubtfire

(Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

Lisa Jakub 

Best known as Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire and Alicia in Independence Day, Lisa Jakub left her acting career behind in the early 2000s. She still exists in the public eye, however, as a blogger, author, and motivational public speaker, as seen on her official website.

Jeremy Suarez on The Bernie Mac Show

(Image credit: Fox)

Jeremy Suarez 

As Jeremy Suarez got older, the star of The Bernie Mac Show and Disney’s Brother Bear (as the voice of Koda) found it more and more difficult to land acting gigs. As recalled to Atlanta Black Star, this would lead him to pursue a “normal life” working various jobs in construction, with boilermakers, retail, etc.

Liesel Matthews in A Little Princess

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Liesel Matthews

With only three acting credits to her name, Liesel Matthews considered returning to the craft before a lawsuit against her father and cousins for misusing money meant for her brother stalled that pursuit, as Forbes recalls. Best known as the lead of 1995’s A Little Princess and the First Daughter in Air Force One from 1997, her current claim to fame is her philanthropic efforts.

Willow Smith in I Am Legend

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Willow Smith

Years after making her acting debut alongside her father, Will Smith, as his onscreen daughter in I Am Legend, Willow Smith was supposed to be the star of the 2014 remake of Annie. According to The Guardian, her “intuition” influenced her to pass on the opportunity and, instead, pursue would would turn out to be a very successful music career.

Jake Lloyd in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Jake Lloyd

After playing Anakin Skywalker — a young Darth Vader — in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Jake Lloyd was open about his struggles with criticism over his performance for years that ultimately pushed him out of the spotlight. Following several legal troubles, according to Yahoo, he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 2020.

Jolean Wejbe on Big Love

(Image credit: HBO)

Jolean Wejbe

According to Big Love showrunner Will Scheffer’s comments to the LA TImes, Jolean Wejbe’s role on the HBO drama as “Teenie” was recast with Bella Thorne in Season 4 after a growth spurt caused the actor to appear older than the character’s age. On LinkedIn, she lists herself as a Computer Science student at California State University, Northridge.

Taran Noah Smith on Home Improvement

(Image credit: ABC)

Taran Noah Smith

Taran Noah Smith did not do much acting outside of playing Mark Taylor in the Home Improvement cast and, right after the sitcom ended in 1999, the then 16-year-old quit the business completely. According to EW, he went on to start a vegan food company, constructed installation art for events like Coachella, built energy-efficient water purifiers for the military with his father, and — according to SFGate — later became a submarine pilot instructor.

Tami Stronach in The NeverEnding Story

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Tami Stronach 

The Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story is the only screen acting role Tami Stronach, who chose to pursue dance instead shortly after. The reason being, as recalled on Mamamia — the then 10-year-old received a lot of unwanted attention from fans who were grown men, some of whom camped outside her family’s home. She later became a professor and returned to acting onstage.

Ross Malinger in Sleepless in Seattle

(Image credit: Sony)

Ross Malinger

Ross Malinger had a successful acting career that included starring in Kindergarten Cop, playing Tom Hanks’ onscreen son in Sleepless in Seattle, and voicing T.J. on Recess. According to THR, he went on to manage a car dealership.

Jamie Waylett in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Jamie Waylett 

Vincent Crabbe from the Harry Potter movies is the only role that Jamie Waylett ever played, as he was dropped from the gig in 2011 due to legal trouble that put him behind bars. According to Metro, he still makes a living putting himself in the public eye by using an app called Cameo.

Caitlin Sanchez on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

(Image credit: NBC)

Caitlin Sanchez 

Caitlin Sanchez made her debut on Law & Order: SVU and appeared on Lipstick Jungle, but is best known as the voice of Dora the Explorer — a role she was fired from when her voice changed. However, as THR reported, when she was left with no compensation to show for it, she filed a $10 million lawsuit against Nickelodeon, only to settle for $500,000.

Jason Zimbler on Clarissa Explains It All

(Image credit: Nickelodeon)

Jason Zimbler 

Following his role as Fergus Darling — Melissa Joan Hart’s onscreen brother — on Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All, Jason Zimbler had a career in theater. However, as of 2011, he works at HBO as a software engineer, according to The Sun.

Not every child actor is destined for a life of fame, but at least they have the opportunity to discover their true callings early on.

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