The pressures of Hollywood can be overwhelming to most adult celebrities, add those same pressures to the shoulders of a child and the results are often disastrous. From coping with their public image, to being exposed to a lifestyle of excess, to just trying to grow up and live life under the scrutiny of the media, the former child stars on this list had a rough time growing up due to their celebrity. Drugs, alcohol, failed careers, psych treatments, and even death, the consequences can be dire!
Check out the 15 worst transitions from child star to adult celebrity
Li-Lo’s immediate rise to fame began with her debut in The Parent Trap (1998) at the age of 12. The Disney star’s popularity soon skyrocketed after the success of her films Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Mean Girls, the latter film representing the apex of her promise as a movie star. Her career and image took a huge hit in 2006 as Lohan became a tabloid staple for her heavy partying, drug use, DUI and drug arrests, jail time, and multiple stints in rehab. Apparent plastic surgery along with Lohan’s drug abuse took its toll on her appearance, taking the life out of this once-shining star’s face. Lindsay made it known to Oprah in a August 2013 interview that she is ready to make a comeback but only time will tell if she can get her act together.
As a child, Corey Feldman appeared to have the makings of a stellar acting career. Feldman became widely recognized when he starred in iconic ’80s films The Goonies, Stand By Me and The Lost Boys at age 16. Feldman wasn’t nearly as successful going into adulthood; he battled drug abuse in the ’90s and hasn’t appeared in any large scale films since the 1989’s The Burbs and a voice acting role in the 1993 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. Since then, his career has consisted mainly of horribly bad B movies, a laughable music career, and an eccentric public persona that has made him a reality TV star and comedy punch line. His last prominent project was his reality show the Two Coreys which he starred alongside his childhood friend and former heartthrob, the late Corey Haim.
Though his career began at the age of 13 in the 1984 film Firstborn, the late Corey Haim is best known for his role alongside Corey Feldman in the 1987 classic The Lost Boys, the gateway for his transition from child star to teen idol. Haim’s life became a constant on-and-off-again struggle with drugs, marked by 15 trips to rehab. Drug addiction led to Haim repeatedly being dropped from productions and turbulence with long-time friend Corey Feldman whom he’d appeared with in more than seven films. Despite attempting a comeback, Haim continued to struggle with illicit and prescription drugs and suffered from heart problems due to his long running addiction. His health issues and attempts at reestablishing himself were documented on the reality series with Feldman, The Two Coreys. Sadly, the former heartthrob died on March 10, 2010 from pneumonia.
Up until a little over a year ago Amanda Bynes was a well-loved former child star. She carved out her place starring in Nickelodeon sketch comedy series All That and The Amanda Show and movies like What A Girl Wants and She’s the Man, but in 2012 Bynes was arrested for driving under the influence, charged for two hit and run incidents, and involved in three additional vehicle crimes, and that was just the tip of the iceberg! Her behavior became increasingly erratic as reports surfaced showing evidence of her possible mental health issues in 2013. Bynes was arrested in May for drug possession among other things. She was finally put under an involuntary psychiatric hold after setting a small fire to a driveway in California. The former child star is currently under a conservatorship as she receives treatment and deals with her unending legal woes.
Most people know Edward Furlong for his tear-jerking performance as John Connor, a teenaged boy who befriends his machine body guard in the 1991 classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He became critically acclaimed for many of his childhood films and adult roles in American History X and Pecker, but long gone are the days of his promising acting career. Furlong’s career went on a decline post ’90s, consisting of mainly direct-to-DVD films and TV appearances. He has since struggled with drug and alcohol abuse that has led to multiple DUIs, possession, and domestic battery charges, including one in which he punched his now ex-wife Rachel Kneeland in the face, resulting in a restraining order. The violation of said restraining order sent the troubled actor to jail for the umpteenth time.
When she first stepped on the music scene, a 16-year-old Britney Spears emulated the picture of innocence (she was once even in girl group by the same name). Spears became the best-selling teenage artist of all time and has sold over 100 million albums to-date, but her transition into adulthood wasn’t the smoothest. Her fall from grace began back in 2001 after her bitter breakup from first love Justin Timberlake and rumors of her infidelity. Spears seemed to make some questionable choices when she married back-up dancer Kevin Federline in 2004 after a short courtship. Things hit the fan in 2007, following her divorce from K-Fed, when her increasingly erratic behavior led to her shaving her head, losing custody of her two sons, having multiple stints in rehab, and being placed under a conservatorship in 2008. The Princess of Pop has been able to recover from past struggles, but the stigma remains.
Bobby Brown is hardly thought of as a child star, but the controversial singer did indeed start his musical career at age 9 when he joined R&B group New Edition in 1978 (while they were called The Bricks). The group shot to fame in 1983 with their debut album Candygirl but behavioral problems would lead to a 16-year-old Brown being voted out of the band three years later. Brown took his talents solo and spawned a career that made him a multi-platinum selling artist, but his success was tempered by a growing alcohol addiction, and an eventual drug addiction that came to light during his marriage to Whitney Houston in 1992. Brown had multiple stints in rehab and was arrested several times for a variety of charges, some of which include DUI, assault and battery, drug possession and resisting arrest. His public image has yet to recover from all his personal struggles.
Miley Cyrus’ role as Hannah Montana on the hit Disney show of the same name shot her to stardom at a young age and spawned a franchise worth hundreds of millions of dollars in music, merchandise, and movies. Cyrus began to gradually mature her image, but in 2013 she shed her Disney persona completely when she chopped off her long locks and dyed them platinum blonde. The drastic ‘do ushered in a new era in Miley. Cyrus became the twerk queen, reintroducing the raunchy dance to the masses when she released a video of herself twerking in a unicorn onesie. Her latest controversy is appearing fully unclothed in her “Wrecking Ball” music video. It seems she really can’t be tamed.
Known as one of the most sucessful and iconic child stars of all time, Macaulay Culkin reached the peak of his career at the age of 10 for his starring role in Home Alone. Throughout his teenage years Culkin was the victim of a stressful financial and custodial dispute between his parents that resulted in early retirement from acting and estrangement from his father. His return to acting has since been marked by Indie films, and only six of them since 1994. Culkin has also had his issue with drugs. He was arrested for the possession of kush and two controlled substances in 2004. The years that followed have been marked by speculation of more serious drug use–particularly h-eroine– as Culkin has been spotted with a gaunt frame and disheveled appearance in many photos.
After a string of small appearances on television, Todd Bridges hit his mark in the long-running sitcom Diff’rent Strokes with his role as Willis Jackson at 12 years of age. At 15 Bridges began to experiment with drugs to cope with the pain of being molested several times when he was 11. His career lost steam following the show’s end 1986 and Bridges began to go deeper into drug addiction to coke and meth. He even became a drug dealer to support his habit. His lifestyle led to multiple drug arrests and an attempted murder charge. The former child star eventually rehabilitated himself and has been clean for 20 years. Bridges wrote a book titled Killing Willis in 2010 addressing the various struggles in his life.
Mary-Kate is a far cry from her cutesy toddler beginnings as [one half of] Michelle on Full House. She may have shared the role with her twin sister Ashley but the two certainly don’t share the same persona today. While Ashley has stayed mostly under the radar, Mary-Kate was not so fortunate. She made headlines in 2004 for suffering from anorexia soon after turning 18. A near-fatal experience with the eating disorder resulted in weeks in rehabilitation. The star has since recovered but rumors also swirled that the eccentric star was battling a coke addiction. Rumors of drug addiction and trips to rehab still plague her today.
If viewers of the 1970 series The Partridge Family had any illusion that the stars of the show were anywhere near as perfect as their happy-go-lucky TV characters, they would know better after Danny Bonaduce. The red-headed actor played Danny Partridge when he was 11. The former child star’s luck didn’t last, however, as his career fizzled out after the show ended and gave way to a drug addiction when Bonaduce was 15. Going into adulthood, Bonaduce encountered a string of arrests on charges that include the beating of a transvestite and suspicion of coke possession. These days a beefed-up Bonaduce is a realty TV star known for his aggressive behavior and multiple stints in rehab, including one documented on his reality show Breaking Bonaduce.
After making his film debut in the 1994 film The Client, Brad Renfro became acclaimed actor at the age of 12. The handsome young actor led a fairly successful career, starring in Disney’s Tom and Huck, The Cure, and the ensemble cast feature Sleepers, but it didn’t last long. Renfro started a criminal record at 15 when he was arrested for coke and kush possession just months before the release of his last truly notable film Apt Pupil in 1998. The hearthrob made headlines over the next four years after being arrested multiple times for drug possession, attempted theft, DUI, and repeated violation of his probation. He continued to work, though sparsely, and in little known films. Renfro’s addiction eventually caught up to him in 2008 and he died all too soon from an overdose at the age of 25.
The appropriately named Jodie Sweetin made the climb to child star fame by charming viewers as the young Stephanie Tanner on the long-running Full House at the early age of 5, but things turned sour as she fell into alcohol and drug addiction when the show wrapped in 1995. In 2009, Sweetin penned her memoirs in which she chronicles her downward spiral and says she started using meth out of boredom. Her addiction also included coke and ecstasy. The Full House star has since made small appearances on reality TV and obscure films but never managed to make a comeback. Sweetin has two kids and three failed marriages and continues to struggle with staying clean.
As a child actor River Phoenix exhibited a maturity well beyond his years. Roles in Explorers and the wildly popular Stand By Me made him a notable figure in Hollywood while in his early teens, and soon gave way to more adult-oriented roles like Running on Empty, which earned him the Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor when he was 18. Phoenix’s delicate good looks and pervading angst made him a teen sensation while his performance in indie film My Own Private Idaho came highly praised by critics, demonstrating his promising future as an actor. Little did his adoring public know, River possessed very little desire to have a future as an actor and had trouble coping with the pressures of Hollywood, his squeaky-clean image, and his personal life that led him to a serious drug addiction. His battle with drugs only came to light in October 1993 when he died from a speedball overdose.