LIFE

8 Celebrities You Probably Never Realized Started Out As Child Stars

by Caroline Hockenbury
Caroline is an editorial intern who enjoys running, making origami, and beatboxing (simultaneously).

As a kid, I decided I would try my hand at acting.

I began auditioning for school musicals starting in fourth grade — much to the surprise of my sport-focused family.

By the time I hit late middle school, I was performing monologues and vocal samples for directors in my home city. I loved sports in those days, but I loved the creative outlet of theatre even more.

There was one aspect of performing I was not prepared to handle at such a young age, though: the rejection. Few moments in my childhood left me more disappointed than being turned down for a role in a city theatre production of Annie. The experience was a knock at my fragile, preteen self-confidence.

After a few similar defeats, I decided to give my acting career a brief rest.

To be a successful child actor, a kid must be able to withstand rejection and maintain unflinching confidence. Although I didn’t have the fortitude to push through at that age, these child stars did!

Check out the list below to see which big-name celebrities jumpstarted their acting careers as children. These Hollywood standouts had the strength and artistic skill needed to succeed, and I have so much respect for their determination to see their dreams through.

Did you know that any of these stars were featured on the big screen so young? Children can be so incredibly talented!

Let us know your favorite star on this list, then please SHARE this enlightening article with your friends and family on Facebook. Maybe their favorite celebrity is on the list, too!

1. Scarlett Johansson

1. Scarlett Johansson

According to IMDb, Johansson’s mother started scheduling auditions for her daughter early on in her childhood. Scarlett landed her first professional acting role at age eight in an off-Broadway production of “Sophistry.” She made her film debut just one year later, starring in the fantasty-comedy North (1994).

In the decade that followed, she would expand her career quickly —performing in films like Just Cause (1995), If Lucy Fell (1996), and Manny & Lo (1996), just to name a few.

2. Jake Gyllenhaal

2. Jake Gyllenhaal

The son of a producer/screenwriter mother and director father, Jake Gyllenhaal was no stranger to the limelight growing up. The Donnie Darko standout first put himself on the map at the fresh age of 11 — playing the son of Billy Crystal’s character in City Slickers (1991).

He expanded his career in the decade that followed, receiving positive press for his performances in movies like October Sky (1999).

3. Reese Witherspoon

3. Reese Witherspoon

By age seven, the Legally Blonde starlet had established herself as a model. She landed multiple appearances on local television commercials in Nashville before starring in The Man in the Moon (1991) as a preteen.

She continued making a name for herself in the years that followed, appearing in films such as Jack the Bear (1993) and A Far Off Place (1993).

4. Elijah Wood

4. Elijah Wood

The Lord of the Rings lead starred in his first film Back to the Future Part II (1989) at age eight. One year later, he landed his first major role in the 1990 historical drama Avalon — leading to his casting in a long string of films.

His early achievements include Paradise (1991), Radio Flyer (1992), The Good Son (1993), and Flipper (1996), among others.

5. Neil Patrick Harris

5. Neil Patrick Harris

The How I Met Your Mother hunk first decided to pursue acting in fourth grade, landing the chance to play Toto in his school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. At age fifteen, NPH made his film debut in two 1988 pictures: Purple People Eater and Clara’s Heart.

His big break came the year after, though, when he became the lead in Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989) — a TV series about a teen prodigy who becomes a doctor. Soon after, he decided to shift his focus mainly to stage acting.

6. Natalie Portman

6. Natalie Portman

The Black Swan actress was supposedly discovered by a talent agent in a pizza shop at age eleven. Despite being pressured to pursue a modeling career, Portman expressed a deep interest in acting — pursuing live performance and later film.

Her movie debut came in 1994 when she starred in Leon: The Professional at just thirteenShe would gain worldwide fame soon after with her performance as Queen Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999).

7. Christian Bale

7. Christian Bale

Did you know that The Dark Knight star made his acting debut in a cereal commercial at age nine? Three years later, his standout performance in NBC’s Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) would impress Steven Spielberg — eventually landing him the lead in the Spielberg-directed classic, Empire of the Sun (1987).

Despite winning awards such as “Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor” from the National Board of Review, Bale considered quitting acting on many occasions — citing difficulties adapting to fame. Thank goodness he stuck with it!

8. Kate Winslet

8. Kate Winslet

The Titanic star grew up in a theatre-loving family with two stage actor parents; therefore, it is no surprise that she was introduced to performing early. She earned her first professional role at age 11, starring in a Honey Monster cereal commercial.

Winslet acted in a handful of stage productions and sitcoms before her big break at age 17, when she gained notoriety for her depiction of a mind-twisted schoolgirl in Heavenly Creatures (1994). One year later, she solidified her fame with her performance in Sense and Sensibility (1995).

If you absolutely love acting, please SHARE these actors’ incredible stories with your pals on Facebook. Maybe your friends’ favorite celebs are on this very list!