Child Actors Who Played Very Adult Roles As Kids

August 23, 2013  |  

Sometimes a young star will go above and beyond to shake the child-like image that follows them throughout their career, but these 15 child actors didn’t have to worry about that. These former child stars raised major eyebrows by taking on parts in very adult-themed movies.

child actors

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Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson was sitting on the steps of a building in the East Village of Manhattan one day when a director of a movie saw a budding star. Cast in the 1995 film Kids, a 16-year-old Dawson played a wild and loose teenager whose concerns over contracting AIDS forced her to take an HIV test. Dawson has gone on to star in many projects, including independent movies and documentaries. Up next for the native New Yorker is a reprisal of her Sin City character Gail.

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Leonardo DiCaprio

He may have played Luke, the lovable homeless teen that the Seaver family took in on the television sitcom “Growing Pains,” but Leonardo DiCaprio chose to play darker characters while beginning his film career. At 19, DiCaprio was the alcoholic delinquent in 1993’s This Boy’s Life opposite Robert DeNiro. A year later he would be a high school basketball star spiraling out of control on heroin in The Basketball Diaries. DiCaprio has continued to pick roles portraying three-dimensional, sometimes troubled individuals. He won a Golden Globe for The Aviator as the eccentric and reclusive Howard Hughes.

"Anna Pacquin pf"

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Anna Paquin

Before she had vampires, shape-shifters and werewolves crazy over her as Sookie Stackhouse on HBO’s “True Blood,” Anna Paquin won an Academy award at just 12 years old. Starring in 1993’s The Piano, Paquin wasn’t even allowed to see the movie that helped her earn an Oscar because of its pervasive violence, nudity and sexual content. The married mother of two now shields her children from her latest show “True Blood,” a show also filled with violence, nudity and sexual content.

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Dakota Fanning

Denzel Washington’s character sacrificed his own life to save the innocent and adorable Pita Ramos, played by Dakota Fanning, in 2004’s Man on Fire. Although she’s played serious roles in her previous movies, none of them caused the outrage surrounding 2007’s Hounddog. When word of Fanning’s rape scene leaked out ahead of the independent movie, many people were up in arms. Further shedding the stigma of being a child actress, Fanning lets it all hang out in this year’s Very Good Girls.

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Daniel Radcliffe

For years, he was the adorable boy wizard with the black-rimmed eyeglasses in the massively successful Harry Potter franchise. Ready to shed his image as a child star and be taken seriously as an actor, Radcliffe shed his clothes in the 2007  play Equus. With runs in both London and in New York City, the 18-year-old Harry Potter actor showed his for the audience to see. In 2011, Radcliffe would return to Broadway for the revival How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying musical.

"Natalie Portman pf"

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Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman was just 12 years old when she played Matilda, an orphan out for revenge in the 1994 action drama The Professional. Prior to her first role, Portman was an understudy on an Off-Broadway play, a far cry from handling automatic weapons while on a mission out for blood. Sixteen years after her film debut, Portman would win an Academy award for the 2010 film Black Swan. Portman has maintained she performed most of her dance routine herself in the film while her dance double says otherwise.

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Drew Barrymore

Before she was a year old, Drew Barrymore was already comfortable in front of the camera. She made her film debut at the age of five and two years later Barrymore was starring in Steven Spielberg’s classic 1982 film E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. At 9, Barrymore garnered international acclaim in Irreconcilable Differences, playing a young girl who ends up divorcing her parents. Being a young star in Hollywood took its toll on Barrymore’s real life. The Charlie’s Angles star entered rehab for the first time at just 14 years old.

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Jodie Foster

Playing a prostitute in a Martin Scorsese movie will make Hollywood take notice, especially if that person is a 12-year-old child star. Jodie Foster’s portrayal of streetwise streetwalker Iris in 1976’s Taxi Driver earned the actress an Academy award nomination. Foster received her first Oscar as a rape victim in 1988’s The Accused. Three years later, Foster would win another one, this time for her role as an FBI trainee in the psycho-thriller Silence of the Lambs.

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Kirsten Dunst

At just seven years old, Kirsten Dunst starred in her first film, Oedipus, directed by Woody Allen. She turned heads in Hollywood at the age of 10 playing a vampire in Interview with the Vampire, a role that helped Dunst score her first Golden Globe nomination. She also scored her first on-screen kiss with fellow vampire Louie, played by Brad Pitt. “Kissing Brad was so uncomfortable for me,” Dunst said in an interview. “I remember saying in interviews that I thought it was gross, that Brad had cooties. I mean, I was 10.”

"Balthazar Getty pf"

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Balthazar Getty

Born in the U.S., as a child Balthazar Getty was sent overseas to attend an acclaimed boarding school in the U.K. This may have helped to prepare him for his first feature role. At the age of 13, Getty was cast in the film adaptation of the classic novel Lord of the Flies written by William Golding. The script, which follows a group of boys who evolve into bloodthirsty savages after becoming stranded on a remote island, was edited to remove much of the cursing over parents concerns. For five years, Getty was on ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” until its run ended in 2011.

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Chloe Grace Moretz

Actress Chloe Grace Moretz may have started out in show business at a young age but she has starred in adult movies for much of her young career. At just eight years old, Moretz gained praise and recognition for her role in the 2005 The Amityville Horror remake. Just a few years later, an 11-year-old Moretz karate-chopped some serious butt in the teen action flick Kick-A$$. An older, more mature Moretz reprised the character Hit Girl in Kick-A$$ 2, which hit theaters last week.

"Brooke Shields pf"

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Brooke Shields

Starting off as a child model, Brooke Shields made the natural transition to acting at a very early age. At 12 years old, Shields starred in the controversial 1978 film, Pretty Baby. Playing a child prostitute whose virginity was auctioned off to the highest bidder, the film was banned in some countries because of Shields’ nude scenes. Just two years later she appeared in Blue Lagoon, the story of two teens who go through puberty and fall in love while stranded on an island.  Brooke had to testify in a Congrssional hearing that body doubles were used for her scenes in the buff in the flick.

"Linda Blair pf"

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Linda Blair

In 1973, supernatural horror film The Exorcist caused a major uproar when it hit theaters. Based on a novel of the same name, the story was inspired by an exorcism performed on a child. Played by a 13-year-old Linda Blair, the possessed child hurled obscenities, spewed vomit, physically attacked men of cloth and violated herself with a crucifix, giving many people, including the Catholic Church, cause for concern over the film’s demonic themes. Blair earned a Golden Globe for her head-turning part and would reprise the role four years later in the sequel.

Schindlers List Movie Promo Poster

Oliwia Dabrowska

At just four years old, little Oliwia Dabrowska played a small yet climactic role in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Schindler’s List. As the girl in the red coat who wasn’t too nice to the Jews who were removed from their homes, Dabrowska was warned by the director not to watch the movie until she was an adult. Dabrowska watched it at 11. “It was too horrible,” she said. “I could not understand much, but I was sure that I didn’t want to watch it ever again in my life.” Dabrowska would watch the film again as an adult and express a change of heart.

The Shining Movie Promo

Danny Lloyd

At six years old, Danny Lloyd starred in The Shining, one of the biggest thrillers of the 80’s, but he was oblivious to the whole thing. Not wanting to upset his young star, director Stanley Kubrick shielded Lloyd, who played son Danny Torrence, from the scarier scenes. Lloyd said he didn’t even realize he was part of a scary movie. Lloyd, who worked on one other film before retiring from the entertainment business, went on to become a teacher.

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  • 2ooo Sq Ft home plenty for me

    Daniel Radcliff always looks stoned?

  • The REAL Howard S

    Conspicuously missing from this list is Warwick Davis, who was 12 years old when he played Wicket, the Ewok leader in “Return of the Jedi” and only 17 when he was family man Willow Ufgood in “Willow.”

  • SIL

    Oh man! I remember the movie “KIds” when it first came out (I was 16 at the time). Those young people were running wild all over NY having unprotected sex and spreading HIV. Rosario had somewhat of a minor role in it, but left a lasting impression. Matter of fact, all the actors in it was great.

  • ashley79

    I’m sorry but the author plagiarized this article. The article was on yahoo earlier this week.

  • Momma Dee Tha Q.U.E.E.N

    Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen. That movie…. ohhh chile. I think she was 15 or 16 at the time of filming… But the mist overall on the list is Rosario… I saw that movie for the first time last year cause I was too young to see it when it 1st came out. If there is movie to scare kids straight, that one will.

    • HUgrad13

      She was 14 during most of filming and turned 15 toward the end. With Thirteen, I would add Nikki Reed as well, since she co-wrote it. She was also 14.