15 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Child Actors

POSTED BY Natasah Carim, UPDATED ON February 15th, 2024
15 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Child Actors

Believe it or not, many of our favorite actors have been around for much longer than we realize. Landing a break in the world of acting can take a lot of hard work, sometimes for decades, before making it big. Keep reading to find out 15 celebrities you didn’t know were child actors; some may surprise you!


15. Laurence Fishburne

Laurence Fishburne

The Oscar-winning actor began his career when he was a pre-teen with a recurring role on One Life to Live. A year after starring in the soap opera, Laurence Fishburne landed a role in the film Cornbread, Earl and Me.

This began the highlight of his career through the 80s and 90s, landing more significant roles in hits like Mission Impossible III, The Matrix, What’s Love, and Boyz n the Hood.


14. Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson Child Actress

Years before she became Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson spent her early years acting in hits including Home Alone 3, Manny & Lo, and The Horse Whisperer.

Her career began when she was only ten years old and dates back to the mid-90s. Johansson’s road to fame kicked off when she played a troubled teenager, Rebecca, in cult-favorite Ghost World.


13. Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris debuted with a big break, earning a Golden Globe nomination at just fifteen for his role in Clara’s Heart. Before returning to the big screen in the hit TV show How I Met Your Mother, NPH spoofed out of Hollywood and explored the world of theater and Broadway.

His comeback was successful, landing him several award nominations for his roles on How I Met Your Mother as well as two Emmy Awards for his part on Glee and for co-producing the Tony Awards.


12. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Child Actor Joseph Gordon Levitt

The super cute high-schooler from 10 Things I Hate About You premiered on his first show, Family Ties, in 1994 when he was just fourteen. Joseph Gordon-Levitt struck gold as he got cased across Demi Moor in The Jury, beginning a long string of blockbuster shows and movies including 500 Days of Summer, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Looper.

Gordon-Levitt also wrote, directed, and starred in Don Jon! He has recently been seen in the Netflix release, The Trial of the Chicago 7.


11. Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl

Romcom queen Katherine Heigl remains unforgettable for her role as Izzie Steven on Grey’s Anatomy. However, Heigl was a household name in the 90s as a child actor in crowd-pullers like That Night, Wish Upon a Star, and King of the Hill.

Katherine Heigl has always known how to captivate her audiences, and she went on to appear in the superhit TV show Suits after Meghan Markle left the cast.


10. Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Long before he became Hollywood’s biggest heartthrob for his role in The Notebook, Ryan Gosling was one of The Mickey Mouse Club kids. Alongside Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, he went on to make it big during his early years and even appeared in Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Gosling has since played all types of roles, from a drug addict in Half Nelson to a musical maestro in La La Land, for which he won a Golden Globe.                                                                                                                                   


9. Regina King

Child Actor Regina King

Like Laurence Fishburne, Regina King included credits in her cinematic debut, Boyz n the Hood. So it only seems fitting that Regina King began her career on screen at fourteen, playing Brenda Jenkins in the sitcom 227 during the mid-’80s.

King has since appeared on screen in American Crime, The Big Bang Theory, Living Single, and Southland. Regina King has also appeared in box office hits, including Miss Congeniality 2 and One Night in Miami.


8. Christian Bale

Christian Bale

One of the most memorable portrayals of Batman to date, Christian Bale, is a veteran British actor who began his career years before his existence was known to the world. As a child, Bale starred in low-budget TV movies, including Treasure Island and A Murder of Quality.

Christian Bale also impressed Steven Spielberg when he was twelve during auditions, claiming the part of young POW Jamie in Empire of the Sun for himself.


7. Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet Child Actress

There is a common misconception that Titanic was Kate Winslet‘s debut movie, when in fact, she had been on screen for years before. Winslet made her debut on screen, playing Reet on the early ’90s TV show Dark Season. She also appeared in movies based on adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Hamlet before her big break.

Winslet is a highly celebrated British actress with several accolades for her performances, including an Oscar, a Primetime Emmy, and several Golden Globe Awards.


6. Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck has been taking up more minor roles since he was only seven, appearing in the independent film The Dark End of the Street and ABC’s special episodes. He then went on to make his big-screen cameo in Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s movie adaptation.

In addition, Affleck has an impressive list of roles under his belt, including Pearl Harbor and Armageddon.


5. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman

Portman appeared in her first film, The Professional when she was only twelve years old. She is currently one of the highest-paid actors globally and took her career to all new heights when she starred as Queen Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

Since then, we’ve seen Natalie Portman countless times in award-winning movies, including Black Swan, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2010.


4. Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman Child Actor

Snagging roles in blockbuster hits like Knight Rider, Bateman made his debut on Little House on the Prairies as James Cooper Ingalls.

However, Jason Bateman has been acting since he was twelve years old, long before he appeared on Ozark and Arrested Development which are the highlights of his career.


3. Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix

Known as Leaf Phoenix when he was much younger, Joaquin’s first role was at the age of eight in 1982’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He also received credits under this name for his work on SpaceCamp, Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia, and Murder, She Wrote.

Years later, he changed his name to Joaquin, beginning a streak of bestselling movies including Gladiator, Signs, in which he starred opposite Mel Gibson and All About Love. Joaquin Phoenix is also critically acclaimed for his portrayal of Joker, which won him his first Academy Award for Best Actor.


2. Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen Child Actor

Known as a charmer, Seth Rogen kicked off his acting career by befriending other friends, including James Franco. The pair appeared in Freaks and Geeks in 1999 when he was seventeen years old.

However, the Canadian actor made his breakthrough in leading roles with his appearance with Katherine Heigl in the romcom Knocked Up and has been on a roll ever since.


1. Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon Child Actress

Reese Witherspoon graced the big screen for the first time when she was fifteen in the teenage drama, The Man in the Moon. Her growing success landed her several high-profile movies, including the Legally Blonde franchise, Sweet Home Alabama, and Cruel Intentions.

In 2006, Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role in Walk the Line, for which she learned how to sing and play the autoharp! She never ceases to amaze her audience.

Hope you enjoyed reading our list of celebrities you didn’t know were child actors. Please feel free to share your views in the comments below!

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