The Essentials: Child Actors turned Action Stars
As a parent, I don’t think that I could ever allow my child to pursue a career in Hollywood. There is just too much history of abuse, addiction, and downright horribleness for me to ever agree to it. That doesn’t mean that every child actor has gone the route of Macaulay Culkin but it’s a far too messed up of a world for me to ever send my kin into it. I was thinking about it the other day when my niece’s new movie hit Netflix (In Search of Fellini) and I made a blood oath with her father that if we ever hear one word about some Bryan Singer shit happening to her we’ll both be in prison for murder. Anywho… check out this list of some notable child actors who made the jump into the world of action. Enjoy!
Hawke’s earliest on screen role was in the 1985 children’s adventure movie Explorers. He shared the film with fellow youngster River Phoenix and wouldn’t be in a major motion picture again until he was 18 alongside Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. Hawke’s greatest contributions to the world of action have come in the past couple of decades with movies like Training Day, The Purge, and The Magnificent Seven. It’s hard to turn your television on these days without seeing Ethan’s pretty boy face on it. Special shoutout to a couple of my favorites from Ethan including White Fang and The Newton Boys.
Originally born in Jerusalem, Natalie’s first feature role was when she was at the young age of 13 in Leon: The Professional. I would still consider it her best action movie to date, but she’s added quite a few action-packed roles with her appearances in the Star War prequels, comic book action in V for Vendetta and Thor, Western goodness in Jane Got a Gun, and her most recent sci-fi work in Annihilation.
While the Welsh-born actor’s first roles were in commercials and on stage, his first big picture work was on Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun in 1987. The 13 year old Bale would later go on to make many Shakespearian flicks throughout the 90’s and skyrocket to fame after his performance in American Psycho. Bale took over the Batman role in 2005 after starring in the underrated Equilibrium and Reign of Fire. Christian has continued to jump back and forth from action movie to independent offering for the better part of his career.
Scarlett’s first role in a movie was in 1994’s North, starring another of our child actors on this list, but her action debut wouldn’t be until 2005 with the release of The Island. Since then, she’s racked up a serious amount of lady-powered superhero and non-superhero action movies with titles such as The Avengers, Ghost in the Shell, Lucy, and The Spirit. One could easily rank her among the top grossing action stars alive today.
Even though Leo finally won his Academy Award recently for The Revenant, action film lovers have respected DiCaprio greatly since he made Gangs of New York back in 2002. Leo’s resume of amazing films is probably better than any other actor on this list but a few of his least recognized works are some of my favorites from him; The Quick and the Dead, and Blood Diamond. Both movies were slight changes for the actor compared to the work early in his career.
Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling started his career playing in various television shows until the calendar rolled over into the early 2000’s and he became a rising star in Hollywood with movies opposite Sandra Bullock in Murder by Numbers and The Notebook a couple of years later. He wouldn’t do much in the way of action until his role in Drive in 2011. He would follow it up by having an excellent 2013 with Only God Forgives and Gangster Squad. His recent additions would be 2016’s The Nice Guys with Russell Crowe and last year’s Blade Runner 2049.
JGL started his acting career off at the tender age of 7 with roles on shows like Family Ties and Dark Shadows. He would later go on to play one of the weirdo aliens on the show 3rd Rock from the Sun but the first time that I was actually impressed by Joey was when I saw him in Inception. In fact, even watching him do cool shit in Inception didn’t convince me that he was anything other than an undersized pretty boy chump, but he was decent in The Dark Knight Rises and Looper.
Drew had started acting when she was only 3 years old but found her first success when she was just 7 years old in the Spielberg classic E.T.The Extra-terrestrial. Out of all the actors on this list, Drew may be the one with the worst action pedigree but she did star in the 2000 Charlie’s Angels remake as the third hottest member of the team. A sequel a few years later and a few random bit roles in movies like Batman Forever give her at least a few better action roles than Mark Wahlberg.
You might not believe this but little Elijah Wood has 99 acting credits to his name. I spent a lot of time watching Elijah Wood movies as a kid between Radio Flyer, Forever Young, and The Good Son. I had no idea that someday he would make ten trillion dollars with Peter Jackson and a bunch of dwarfs. Wood has also done some good work in movies like The Last Witch Hunter and Green Street Hooligans. You can currently see him on the comedy show Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
Milla was making movies when she was 13 and doing nude scenes by the age of 16. There may be no other story more Hollywood than that. The same hypocrites who are shouting “Me Too!” at each other were watching while grown men oogled Milla Jovovich and Brooke Shields as they striped down to their birthday suits for a couple of shitty movies. Milla finally hit action gold when she teamed up with Luc Besson in 1997 for The Fifth Element. That alone could have sustained her career for a while but then she made a two decades long series of movies based on a video game after her starring role in Resident Evil. Every role since then has pretty much been the same character but at least she does kick a whole lot of ass in those movies.