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Pop-up Cinema: Child Stars

18 July 2019 / film /

Some of today’s best-loved Hollywood names were still learning their ABCs when they first appeared on-screen. Here are 15 leading boys and girls who got big – in every sense.

Drew Barrymore*

Who can forget Barrymore as little Gertie in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial* at the tender age of seven? But it wasn’t her first role – that was in a dog food commercial at a mere 11 months. After tumultuous teenage years, she grew up into a true rom-com queen.

Drew Barrymore in ET

Christopher Bale

He’s known for some of cinema’s most dramatic on-screen physical transformations, but Bale’s most striking metamorphosis – from the precocious young star of Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun to Oscar-winning character actor – happened all on its own. It’s called growing up.

Dakota Fanning

A child star for longer than she’s been an adult, Fanning’s breakout role in I Am Sam came when she was just seven years old. Now 25, she’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young stars, with major roles for Tarantino and Kirsten Dunst in the works.

Natalie Portman

The star of Black Swan and Jackie first made a splash at 13 as Mathilda, a hitman’s protégée, in Luc Besson’s cult action flick Léon*. Next came Star Wars – and the rest is cinematic history.

Natalie Portman in Leon

Jeff Bridges

It’s hard to imagine the gruff, bearded Jeff Bridges any other way. But the star of The Big Lebowski made his first screen appearance at just two years of age in the 1951 film The Company She Keeps. The beard came later.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal debuted in City Slickers aged just 11, even before his director dad Stephen gave Jake and older sister Maggie roles in his movie A Dangerous Woman, which meant that when his breakout role came, playing a troubled teen in Donnie Darko, Jake was already a movie veteran. Maggie also hit the big time as an adult with Secretary and The Dark Knight.

Elijah Wood

Best known as Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wood has a boyish, somewhat other-worldly charm to him. Perhaps no surprise, then, that his first major role came when he was just eight, in blockbuster sequel Back To The Future Part II.

Elijah Wood

Keira Knightley

She burst onto our screens as a football-mad teen in Bend it like Beckham, but fewer people know that Knightley’s film debut came much earlier, at just 10 years old, in the thriller Innocent Lies. As Lizzie Bennett in Pride and Prejudice* she cemented her place in our hearts and countless romantic leads have followed.

Ryan Gosling

The star of La La Land* – and thinking woman’s heart-throb – was one of a class of child stars who got their break on Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club. As a leading man he moves from heavy drama to light comedy with the subtle lift of an eyebrow.

Ryan Gosling in the Mickey Mouse Club

Ben Affleck

Now a staple on both sides of the camera, Affleck first acted in the educational children’s programme The Voyage of Mimi when he was 12. Two Oscars on – for acting (Good Will Hunting) and directing (Argo) – he’s now Hollywood royalty.

Gabby Hoffman

The sweet little girl in Sleepless in Seattle grew up to star in Girls and Transparent, two of the most taboo-breaking shows on TV in recent years.

Leonardo DiCaprio

From pretty-boy pin-up to Hollywood heavy-hitter, Leo got his start acting in commercials as a child. He’s since been the star of countless major features, from Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island to The Revenant and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Leonardo Di Caprio

Jodie Foster

One of Hollywood’s most respected women, Foster was acting from the age of three, but made a splash at just 14 in Scorsese’s gritty classic Taxi Driver, followed by the glorious Bugsy Malone. She now calls the cinematic shots as a leading producer/director.

Anna Paquin

The star of X-Men and HBO’s True Blood amazingly won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at just 11 for her role in The Piano, opposite Harvey Keitel. Check out her acceptance speech – it’s pretty cute.

*showing at the Secret Garden Pop Up cinema at The Grove. Click here for further details. 

Child Actors Then and Now | Pop Up Cinema Near London | The Grove