Child Actor Purgatory

Young ones crash and burn.

Lane Cummingsby Lane Cummings

Child Actor Purgatory

Child actors. I have a theory about them. If they manage to reach adulthood, they’re always shorter than their civilian counterparts. My theory revolves around the early mornings on set. These kids get exposed to and come to rely on coffee regularly and that stunts their growth. I know my theory is simplistic and I don’t have any empirical evidence behind me, but I stand by it. I’ve just met far too many child actors who’ve never made it past 5’9” and child actresses who never made it past 5’3”. 

Aside from their vertical issues, lasting success and well-adjustment truly is a roll of the dice. Some of them turn out okay. Others swipe necklaces from hole-in-the-wall boutiques. It’s a lot of stress for an individual to handle at a particularly young age, and often when it comes to stress, some excel, others shatter.  

Here’s a look at five child actors that are in career-purgatory.

Macaulay Culkin.

His name, his tow-head and sensitive-to-after-shave skin ruled the nineties. His parents were questionable and he made millions before the age of 14. Then came lots of drinking, partying, an early marriage to Rachel Minor, the Mila Kunis thing, and the Euro porn star. Honestly, I know he may or may not have sworn off acting, but I have seen him in smaller projects. This one kid that I would like to see make a comeback; I truly believe he has the chops.


Jonathan Brandis.

My heart, my heart, my stormily pounding heart. I swooned. I supported young Brandis on all his roles on Who’s the Boss, Full House, IT, The Neverending Story II and Seaquest. While he continued to work throughout the late nineties and after, he didn’t have the crazed stardom of his earlier roles. Some speculated depression. Or drugs. Then the LAPD reported in 2003 that he hanged himself in the hallway of his apartment building after having dinner with friends. I don’t believe it was actually a suicide. I think he was friends with the wrong people. And I’m completely serious.


Jodie Sweetin.

While I think Jodie Sweetin has made a remarkable recovery from some seriously hard drugs and has been both candid and paintstakingly honest about her addiction, I feel like Full House was a gig where a sensitive child actor wouldn’t have had a real shot at life. As Stephanie Tanner, she was somewhat like a sweet, trained monkey, hitting those hideous punchlines every time. When the show ended, it’s truly no shock that she had an identity crisis and got tangled up in the junkie’s eternal odyssey.


Corey Feldman.

He showcased his acting chops with aplomb in Reiner’s 1986 Stand by Me. However, this hit was apparently a lighthouse in a stormy sea of subsequent sad and sorry films where Feldman played stock characters (okay, except for The Lost Boys and  The Burbs; those are cult classics and always will be). His career deteriorated, his partying increased and just as the eighties ended, Feldman was arrested for possessing 25 balloons of heroin and/or cocaine. Where is he now? Exactly.


 Anthony Michael Hall.

Okay, I wanted this list to have one zinger on it—one really unpredictable, head-scratching item. Anthony Michael Hall most notably played the nerdy but driven supporting character in The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. He is a solid actor and as far as I know, does not use drugs, and continues to work regularly. So why does he belong on this list? Well, a part of me wants to put him on this list because I think we should penalize nature, the universe or genetics for causing him to resemble just a shadow of his former self. I wish he still looked stringy and small, just taller and older. He’s this beefy, shiny faced hulky looking guy who does not even remotely resemble his former self. How can we love and appreciate Anthony Michael Hall, when the person who says he’s Anthony Michael Hall looks like he’s stuffed the real Anthony Michael Hall into walk-in freezer at the Overlook Hotel?