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10 Movie Stars You Might Not Know Were Child Actors!

Written by Mollie Davis. Published: September 14 2023


Have you ever been watching a TV show or film and thought you recognized an actor from another project but just couldn’t remember what? Maybe you recognized one of these actors from a project they did in their early days in the industry as child actors! Here are 10 movie stars that you might not know began their careers as child actors!


1. Ryan Gosling

Before he was Just Ken, Ryan Gosling was a Mouseketeer! Gosling appeared on Disney Channel’s '90s variety show "The Mickey Mouse Club" alongside other future stars like Brittney Spears and Justin Timberlake. But you can also see Gosling in all his child actor glory in "Goosebumps" and "Are You Afraid of The Dark?"!




2. Natalie Portman 

Natalie Portman’s career started at just 10 years old after an agent spotted her at a pizza restaurant! She got her first acting gig sharing the role of Laura Bell Bundy’s understudy along with Britney Spears for the off-Broadway show Ruthless, and her next gig after that was her breakout role as the co-lead in French film Leon: The Professional at 13 years old.




3. Austin Butler

Now a household name for his Oscar-nominated performance in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, Austin Butler got his feet wet through roles on a seemingly endless list of Disney and Nickelodeon shows. For a relic from his child acting past, check out his IMDb bio, which was affectionately written by his parents before his "iCarly" debut as Jake Krandle.




4. Scarlett Johansson

Actress Scarlett Johnansson made her film debut at only 9 years old with a minor role in the 1994 film North,a comedy-adventure-drama where she played the daughter of John Ritter’s character. Her first leading role, and movie poster appearance, was in Manny & Lo, a dramedy about two sisters' journey through the foster care system. 




5. Neil Patrick Harris

Some actors get discovered at restaurants and county fairs, but in Neil Patrick Harris’s case he was discovered at theatre camp! After Neil caught playwright Mark Medoff’s eye at camp, Mark cast him in Clara’s Heart, a 1988 drama film that starred Whoppi Goldberg and was nominated for a Golden Globe. But NPH became a household name when he landed the lead role in the late-'80s/early-'90s medical series "Doogie Howser, M.D.", about a gifted teenager who becomes a doctor.




6. Brie Larson

It may come as no surprise that Brie Larson’s acting career started as a child when you learn her stage name was partially inspired by the American Girl Doll Kirsten Larson! Her first major role was playing the late Bob Saget’s daughter on the family-centered sitcom "Raising Dad".




7. Jake Gylenhaal

Jake Gylenhaal having an early interest in the world of moviemaking only seems natural, what with his being born to a screenwriter and film director parents! His acting debut on the big screen was made at the age of 11, when he played Billy Crystal’s son in the 1991 comedy western City Slickers




8. Kristen Stewart

We have an agent who attended her elementary school Christmas play to thank for Kristen Stewart’s iconic filmography, from Twilight to Princess Diana biopic Spencer! After getting discovered, a young Kristen appeared in a variety of films, from goofy family flick The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas to David Fincher thriller Panic Room.




9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Another acting talent who was discovered through childhood performances on the stage is Joseph-Gordon Levitt! JGL first got his face out there through appearing in television commercials before making his way into made for television movies, but his big breakout was his recurring role on the hit sitcom "3rd Rock From The Sun" at age 15, which led to a supporting role in the now-classic teen rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You.




10. Jodie Foster

2-time Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster made her acting debut in a television ad at 3 years old and appeared in over 50 TV shows throughout her childhood, some alongside her older brother Buddy. She made her feature film debut at just 10 years old in Napoleon and Samantha, an adventure flick about befriending a circus lion. She was also in the original version of Freaky Friday as a teen!