11 Child Actors Who Have Become Super Successful Adult Actors

Published on September 30, 2013. Updated March 12, 2014

Child actors often have difficulty shifting  from child roles to adult roles. For every Jodie Foster, there are at least  three other actors who have failed to transition from a child actor to a successful adult actor. It seems that fame can also promote the negative demise of many child actors – and they can experience a downward spiral into a world of  decadence, drugs and an assortment of other demons that accompany being in the spotlight. Here are 11 child actors that have maintained successful careers in the industry as adults.

1.  Emma Watson

Despite being cast as Hermoine Granger in the  film ”Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” at the age of 10, Emma Watson has managed to transition out of child roles and into adult roles. Her work in the Bling Ring and My Week with Marilyn, solidified her status as an adult actor. Although she still plays roles within her age range (see ”Perks of Being A Wallflower”), she presents a self-possessed and mature air about her.  Watson hasn’t been seen stumbling down on the sidewalk drunk and manages to aspire others to achieve a higher education.  Her next role will be Emma Forest in the film ” Your Voice in My Head.”

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2. Neil Patrick Harris

As a teenager Neil Patrick Harris entertained audiences with his portrayal of Doogie Howser M.D. from 1989-1993. He found steady work in film and television with roles in ”Murder She Wrote,”” Capitol Critters,” and now stars on the hit series ”How I Met Your Mother.” Harris was also the host for the most recent  Prime Time Emmys.

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3. Anna Paquin

After winning an Oscar for the movie  ”The Piano,” Anna Paquin starred in children’s  movies such as Fly Away home. She also starred in teenage roles such as ”She’s All That” and the teen slasher film ”Scream 4.” Paquin has, however, transitioned completely into adult roles after  her role as Sookie Stackhouse in the HBO show, ”True Blood.”

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4. Leonardo DiCaprio

He acted in “The Outsiders” (a TV Series), ”Growing Pains” and ”Parenthood.” His career gained momentum in movies such as ”What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,””Romeo & Juliet” and the ”Basketball Diaries.” Leo, however, became a household name after the release of the hit film “Titanic.”  He now works in critically acclaimed movies such as  “The Aviator,” “The  Departed,” “Inception” and “Django Unchained.”

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5. Drew Barrymore

Her memorable turn as “Gertie” in the children’s movie cemented her status as a child star to watch. Her performances in ”Charlie’s Angels”,  ”Riding in Cars with Boys” and “He’s Just Not that Into You” have proven that Barrymore has experienced success as a solid ensemble actress.

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6. Joseph Gordon Levitt

Levitt started his career on television on shows such “Family Ties” and “Murder She Wrote”. In his teens, he worked on the show “3rd Rock from the Sun”  and “That 70s show”. He moved into adult roles in films such as “500 Days of Summer,” and the “Dark Knight Rises.”

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7. Elijah Wood

Elijah Wood got his start in movies such as “The Adventures of Huck Finn” and “The Ice Storm.” He became a household name after the Lord of the Rings Trilogy with his iconic role as Frodo Baggins.  His most recent roles include work on the TV series “Wilfred” and “The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey.”

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8.  Christian Bale

Christian Bale starred in young adult movies such as ”Newsies” and ”Swing Kids.” His role in ”American Psycho” earned him rave reviews and he became a household name after the Batman Trilogy. Although Bale has admitted to disliking the fame that accompanied being an actor and considered quitting the industry as a teen, he continued to work and nabbed his first Oscar in 2011.

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9. Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster got her first start acting in Coppertone commercials. She continued to act in movies such as ”Freaky Friday” and ”The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.” Foster recently penned an open to letter to critics  defending Kristen Stewart from a scandal with a married director. In the letter, she discusses the perils of childhood fame and how it can be so detrimental to many actors lives.

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10. Jerry O’ Connell 

As a child, O’Connell did work as a commercial actor and as a teenager acted in the hit series “My Secret Identity.” He also went to  the Professional Children’s School in New York City. Classmates included Sarah Michelle Gellar and Tara Reid. In his most recent stint in film, he shows off his comedic chops as Christian Grey in Scary Movie.

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11. Sara Gilbert

Sara Gilbert started acting in TV shows such as ”Calamity Jane” and ”ABC Weekend Specials.” She received her big break in the show Roseanne, playing Darlene Conner. Today, Gilbert works as an executive producer on the CBS show, ”The Talk.”

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