Famous Celebs Who Started as Child Actors

Famous Celebs Who Started as Child Actors

Leonardo DiCaprio, who will be celebrating his 45th birthday on Nov. 11, is among the world’s most famous movie stars. The actor’s impressive filmography includes such Hollywood blockbusters as “Titanic” (1997), “The Departed” (2006), and this year’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” His sensational success did not simply occur overnight, however.

Born in Hollywood in 1974, DiCaprio was a child actor long before he became a household name. His earliest acting credit dates back to 1979, when an exceedingly young Leo appeared on the children’s program “Romper Room and Friends.” Some years later, he would land a part on the more popular series “Growing Pains,” before becoming a teen heartthrob in the 1990s and eventually starring in some of the most popular movies of all time. These are the most popular movies released the year you were born.

The Oscar-winner is far from being the only celebrity to get their start in the industry prior to reaching adulthood. 24/7 Tempo has identified 31 famous entertainers who started out as child actors.

Though they all began acting in their childhood, they each began getting noticed at different points in their career. DiCaprio was still a teenager when he began appearing on “Growing Pains” in 1991. Reese Witherspoon was only 15 when she landed the lead role in the movie “The Man in the Moon” (1991) — her earliest acting credit.

Ryan Gosling, on the other hand, despite television appearances as a teenager, did not have his breakout role — “The Believer” (2001) — until he was in his 20s. Joaquin Phoenix, who landed television roles when he was just 8 years old, hadn’t even begun performing under the name “Joaquin” until the late 90s. Prior to that, he used the name Leaf Phoenix. Joaquin would discover great success in 2000, when he starred as Commodus in “Gladiator” at age 25. If these actors continue to work, they may join the ranks of the actors with the longest careers.

To identify 31 famous celebrities who started as child actors, 24/7 Tempo selected well-known entertainers whose earliest acting credits — according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) — occurred prior to their turning 18 years of age. Total acting credits also come from IMDb.

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1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
> Birth date: Feb. 17, 1981
> Earliest acting credit: Stranger on My Land (1988)
> Total acting credits: 82

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has 82 acting credits, has won a Primetime Emmy, and been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards. Among the blockbusters he’s appeared in include “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” His earliest acting credit is “Stranger on My Land” in 1988, released when Gordon-Levitt was only six.

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2. Jake Gyllenhaal
> Birth date: Oct. 19, 1980
> Earliest acting credit: City Slickers (1991)
> Total acting credits: 52

Jake Gyllenhaal rose to fame through movies such as “Donnie Darko,” “Brokeback Mountain,” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” which are among his 52 acting credits. Gyllenhaal was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006. His earliest film credit was the hit “City Slickers” in 1991, when he was 11.

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3. Leonardo DiCaprio
> Birth date: Nov 11, 1974
> Earliest acting credit: Romper Room and Friends (1979)
> Total acting credits: 55

Before Leonardo DiCaprio became an Oscar-winning movie heavyweight, he appeared on television series such as “The New Lassie” in 1989. Among his 55 acting credits are “Titanic,” “Wolf of Wall Street,” and “The Revenant,” for which he won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in 2016.

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4. Kirsten Dunst
> Birth date: April 30, 1982
> Earliest acting credit: New York Stories (1989)
> Total acting credits: 83

Kristen Dunst has appeared in three Spider-Man films that have combined grossed more than $1 billion. Dunst started her career in 1989 by appearing in “New York Stories” that was directed by Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese. She would go on to amass 83 acting credits and receive two Golden Globe nominations.

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5. Kristen Stewart
> Birth date: April 9, 1990
> Earliest acting credit: The Thirteenth Year (1999)
> Total acting credits: 53

Kristen Stewart is most famous as the sloe-eyed, brooding teenager Bella Swan in the five-film vampire saga Twilight. Among her more notable films among her 53 acting credits besides the Twilight series are “Panic Room” and “The Safety of Objects.” Her first acting credit was the TV movie “The Thirteenth Year” in 1999.

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6. Regina King
> Birth date: Jan. 15, 1971
> Earliest acting credit: 227 (1985)
> Total acting credits: 52

The Golden Globe-winning actress began her career by appearing in the five-season television comedy series “227.” On the big screen, Regina King has appeared in such well-received motion pictures as “If Beale Street Could Talk,” for which she won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and “Boyz n the Hood.”

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7. Laurence Fishburne
> Birth date: July 30, 1961
> Earliest acting credit: If You Give a Dance, You Gotta Pay the Band (1972)
> Total acting credits: 118

Laurence Fishburne’s first acting credit was when he was 11 in the TV movie “If You Give a Dance, You Gotta Pay the Band ” in 1972. The Oscar-nominated actor has accumulated 118 acting credits, including “Apocalypse Now,” action films such as “Mission: Impossible III,” and gritty urban films like “Boyz n the Hood.”

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8. Ryan Reynolds
> Birth date: Oct. 23, 1976
> Earliest acting credit: Fifteen (1991)
> Total acting credits: 84

Ryan Reynolds’ first acting credit was in the four-season television series “Fifteen” about teenagers dealing with issues such as divorce and substance abuse. He gained fame from appearing on the television show “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.” He was nominated for the Golden Globe in 2017 for his leading role in “Deadpool,” which is also the actor’s highest-grossing movie.

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9. Natalie Portman
> Birth date: June 9, 1981
> Earliest acting credit: Leon: The Professional (1994)
> Total acting credits: 66

The Israeli-born actress’s first screen credit was in the Luc Besson-directed thriller “Léon: The Professional ” in the role of Mathilda, a girl taken in by an assassin and learning the assassin’s craft. Portman has 66 acting credits to her name, and she won the Oscar for Best Actress for role in “Black Swan.” She also had major roles in the Star Wars series and Marvel Universe films.

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10. Christian Bale
> Birth date: Jan. 30, 1974
> Earliest acting credit: Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986)
> Total acting credits: 52

Before the Oscar-winning Welsh-born actor put a dark stamp on the Batman character in the blockbuster “The Dark Knight,” Bale debuted in the television mini-series “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna” in 1986, the first of his 52 acting credits. Bale has been nominated for an Oscar four times and won in 2011 for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his role in “The Fighter.”

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11. Ethan Hawke
> Birth date: Nov. 6, 1970
> Earliest acting credit: Explorers (1985)
> Total acting credits: 81

Ethan Hawke’s first acting credit was as a starring role in the Joe Dante-directed movie “Explorers” in 1985. Hawke played a boy obsessed with science-fiction films who builds a spaceship with the help of friends. Hawke would go on to other sci-fi-themed films, including “The Purge.” Hawke has 81 acting credits to his name, including the remake of “The Magnificent Seven” in 2016.

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12. Scarlett Johansson
> Birth date: Nov. 22, 1984
> Earliest acting credit: North (1994)
> Total acting credits: 66

Scarlett Johansson’s first of 66 acting credits was in the Rob Reiner comedy “North.” Before appearing in the Avengers series movies that have set box-office records as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, the four-time Golden Globe nominee gained critical notice for her appearance in the comedy “Lost in Translation” with Bill Murray in 2003.

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13. Johnny Galecki
> Birth date: April 30, 1975
> Earliest acting credit: Murder Ordained (1987)
> Total acting credits: 55

The 44 year-old Johnny Galecki has made a name for himself with prominent roles on hugely popular sitcoms such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Roseanne.” His acting career began way back in 1987, however, when at the age of 12 he appeared in two television movies: “Murder Ordained” and “Time Out for Dad.” Two years later, Galecki would land the role of Rusty in the holiday comedy “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

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14. Rose Byrne
> Birth date: July 24, 1979
> Earliest acting credit: Dallas Doll (1994)
> Total acting credits: 71

Rose Byrne’s first role was as a young girl in the 1994 comedy “Dallas Doll.” Six of the films the Australian-born actress has appeared in since have grossed more than $100 million, including “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” in 2002.

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15. Elisabeth Moss
> Birth date: July 24, 1982
> Earliest acting credit: Bar Girls (1990)
> Total acting credits: 87

Born in Los Angeles, in 1982, it didn’t take Elisabeth Moss long to find her way to acting, appearing in a one-hour pilot for the show “Bar Girls” in 1990. Moss continued to work steadily, and in 1999 landed her breakout role in “Girl, Interrupted,” in which she starred alongside Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. She’s since won two Golden Globe Awards for her work on the series “Top of the Lake” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

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16. Katherine Heigl
> Birth date: Nov. 24, 1978
> Earliest acting credit: That Night (1992)
> Total acting credits: 48

Television viewers know Heigl from her role as Dr. Izzie Stevens from 2005 to 2010 on the long-running series “Grey’s Anatomy.” Heigl got her start on the big screen as a young girl in the romantic drama “That Night” in 1992. Her most successful movie to date among her 48 acting credits was her star turn in the 2007 comedy “Knocked Up,” which received a 90% Freshness rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

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17. Reese Witherspoon
> Birth date: March 22, 1976
> Earliest acting credit: The Man in the Moon (1991)
> Total acting credits: 61

Reese Witherspoon began her acting career as a teenager with a starring role in the coming-of-age drama “The Man in the Moon,” in which she played the lovestruck 14-year-old Dani Trant. The actress has scored a number of hits since, including “Legally Blonde” (2001) and the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” (2005), for which she won an Academy Award for her role as June Carter.

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18. Alyson Hannigan
> Birth date: March 24, 1974
> Earliest acting credit: Impure Thoughts (1986)
> Total acting credits: 55

Alyson Hannigan is famous for the American Pie comedies on the big screen and her role as Lily Aldrin/Jasmine in the long-running television series “How I Met Your Mother” from 2005 to 2014 and in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” from 1997 to 2003. The first of Hannigan’s 55 acting credits was in the little-seen comedy “Impure Thoughts” in 1986.

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19. Joaquin Phoenix
> Birth date: Oct. 28, 1974
> Earliest acting credit: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982)
> Total acting credits: 53

Joaquin Phoenix has been in the public eye recently thanks to his starring role in “Joker.” This was only the latest in a long and fruitful acting career. Phoenix’s earliest credit was an appearance on the short-lived television series “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” in 1982, when he was only 8 years old. He would appear on many more television programs throughout the 1980s before switching to mostly film work, including major roles in “Gladiator” (2000), “Walk the Line” (2005), and “Her” (2013).

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20. Neil Patrick Harris
> Birth date: June 15, 1973
> Earliest acting credit: Clara’s Heart (1988)
> Total acting credits: 100

Neil Patrick Harris was discovered by screenwriter Mark Medoff while Harris was attending a youth drama camp. Medoff cast him in the film “Clara’s Heart” in 1988, a drama about the impact divorce has on young boy, and the housekeeper (Whoopi Goldberg) who helps him deal with the turmoil. Harris has starred in several television series since, most notably in the long-running “How I Met Your Mother” from 2005 to 2014. His movie work includes appearances in the Harold & Kumar comedies, among his 100 acting credits.

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21. Ryan Gosling
> Birth date: Nov. 12, 1980
> Earliest acting credit: Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1995)
> Total acting credits: 44

Canadian-born actor Ryan Gosling earned his first acting credit appearing on the Nickelodeon horror series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” at age 14. The following year, in 1996, he appeared on an episode of the similar program “Goosebumps.” Gosling has starred in numerous popular films as an adult, including “The Notebook” (2004), “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), and “La La Land” (2016), for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

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22. Jerry O’Connell
> Birth date: Feb. 17, 1974
> Earliest acting credit: Stand by Me (1986)
> Total acting credits: 121

Jerry O’Connell launched his career with his appearance in Rob Reiner’s “Stand by Me” in 1986 with River Phoenix and Corey Feldman. Among his 121 acting credits, O’Connell is known for comedies such as “Kangaroo Jack” as well as appearing in the hit film “Jerry Maguire.”

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23. Felicity Jones
> Birth date: Oct. 17, 1983
> Earliest acting credit: The Treasure Seekers (1996)
> Total acting credits:

English actress Felicity Jones got her start on the British television movie “The Treasure Seekers” in 1996 at age 12. She proceeded to perform in many UK-based productions, and over the past decade has acted in an increasing number of American productions, including “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016). Jones’s uncle, Michael Hadley, who is also an actor, helped inspire her to pursue the craft as a child.

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24. Michael Cera
> Birth date: June 7, 1988
> Earliest acting credit: Twice in a Lifetime (1999)
> Total acting credits: 85

The Canadian-born Michael Cera has carved out a niche in playing awkward characters, such as the youngest member of a dysfunctional family in the sitcom “Arrested Development” that has run for five seasons. On the big screen, he appeared in the critically acclaimed “Juno” in 2007, which received a Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 94%. The 31-year-old actor has 85 acting credits, the first of which was in 1999, when he played a skateboarder in the film “Twice in a Lifetime.”

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25. Shia LaBeouf
> Birth date: June 11, 1986
> Earliest acting credit: Breakfast with Einstein (1998)
> Total acting credits: 58

Shia LaBeouf had aspirations of doing stand-up comedy until he saw a friend appear on the television show “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” in the early 1990s, and that convinced him to try acting. He eventually landed a part in the television movie “Breakfast with Einstein” in 1998, the first of his 58 acting credits. LaBeouf won a Daytime Emmy for his role on the Disney Channel series “Even Stevens” (2000) and is most famous for playing Sam Witwicky, the main protagonist in the first three Transformers films.

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26. Elijah Wood
> Birth date: Jan. 28, 1981
> Earliest acting credit: Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl (1989)
> Total acting credits: 108

Elijah Wood acted in a Paula Abdul music video, “Back to the Future Part II,” and crime thriller “Internal Affairs,” all while only 8 years old. Wood starred in many more popular movies as a child, though his most well known role is undoubtedly that of Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings movies.

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27. Miley Cyrus
> Birth date: Nov. 23, 1992
> Earliest acting credit: Doc (2001)
> Total acting credits: 64

Miley Cyrus became a television star from the cable TV series “Hannah Montana” that ran from 2006 to 2011. She transitioned to pop singer and became one of the biggest recording artists in the world. In 2009, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for the film “Bolt.” Her film credits include “Sex and the City 2,” “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” and “The Night Before.” Cyrus’s first role was in the film “Doc” in 2001, and she appeared in Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” two years later.

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28. Selena Gomez
> Birth date: July 22, 1992
> Earliest acting credit: Barney & Friends (2002-2004)
> Total acting credits: 92

Actress and singer Selena Gomez began her acting career playing the character Gianna on the children’s series “Barney & Friends” in 2002. Gomez gained more recognition five years later, when she landed a starring role on the Disney Channel series “Wizards of Waverly Place,” which she appeared on from 2007 to 2012. She has since worked on movies, including “Spring Breakers” (2012), and three animated features in the Hotel Transylvania franchise.

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29. Demi Lovato
> Birth date: Aug. 20, 1992
> Earliest acting credit: Barney & Friends (2002-2004)
> Total acting credits: 67

The New Mexico native started out as a child actor on the children’s show “Barney & Friends” in 2002. She later began working with the Disney Channel on the series of shorts “As the Bell Rings” in 2007, and later with a starring role in the television movies “Camp Rock” in 2008 and “Camp Rock 2” in 2010. Lovato has become a pop performer in her own right with major tours and record deals.

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30. Fergie
> Birth date: March 27, 1975
> Earliest acting credit: It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984)
> Total acting credits: 44

Fergie is best known for her work as a member of the musical group Black Eyed Peas. Yet she began as a child actor, working under her birth name, Stacy Ferguson. Fergie appeared in numerous television programs, playing Charlie Brown’s sister Sally in the 1980s, and also starring in the musical children’s series “Kids Incorporated” from 1985 through 1989. As an adult she has acted in movies including Quentin Tarantino’s “Planet Terror” segment of the movie “Grindhouse” (2007) and the musical “Nine” (2009).

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31. Amanda Seyfried
> Birth date: Dec. 3, 1985
> Earliest acting credit: As the World Turns (1999-2001)
> Total acting credits: 57

Amanda Seyfried’s first acting gig was on the soap opera “As the World Turns,” appearing on 27 episodes starting at age 13. She also appeared in another soap opera, “All My Children.” On the big screen, moviegoers know her for roles in “Mean Girls” and “Mamma Mia.” She also appeared in the popular series “Veronica Mars.”

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