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    Half Of These Child Stars Quit Hollywood And Half Became Even Bigger Stars As Adults

    Shirley Temple retired from acting at 22 and ended up working in politics for most of her life, even serving as an ambassador to Ghana and then Czechoslovakia before her death in 2014.

    Child actors have long been a controversial subject in Hollywood and beyond, and while some decide to leave the industry after they've grown up, others keep acting well into adulthood.

    Here are some child actors who retired early and some who stuck with acting:

    1. Retired early: Jennette McCurdy.

    Jennette McCurdy

    Jennette, who started acting at 8 years old, starred in two Nickelodeon sitcoms before she decided to step away from acting.

    Jennette McCurdy as a child

    She talked about the decision to stop acting in 2021 on her podcast, Empty Inside, saying, “I quit a few years ago because I initially didn’t want to do it."

    Jennette with Ariana Grande

    These days, she's mostly pivoted to writing. In her new memoir, I'm Glad My Mom Died, she details the abuse she was dealt as a child actor and how she was only able to step away and heal after her mom's death.

    Jennette on a city street with a crowd behind her

    2. Stuck with acting: Brie Larson.

    Brie Larson

    Brie started acting in 1998, when she was just 9 years old. Her first role was in a sketch for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

    2000s girls will also remember her playing mean girls in 13 Going On 30 and Sleepover when she was about 15.

    Brie Larson in Sleepover

    As an adult, she's gone on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Room and an Emmy for The Messy Truth VR Experience. And there's no sign of her stopping.

    3. Retired early: Shirley Temple.

    Headshot of a smiling Shirley as a young woman

    Shirley is probably the most famous child actor of all time. She started working as an actor at just 4 years old and built an incredible catalog throughout her childhood.

    Shirley Temple

    At 22, she decided to retire from acting, and she ended up working in politics for most of her life, even serving as an ambassador to Ghana and then Czechoslovakia before her death in 2014.

    Shirley Temple as an adult on the red carpet

    4. Stuck with acting: Jodie Foster.

    Jodie Foster

    Other than commercials, Jodie's first acting role was when she was just 5 years old on the TV show Mayberry R.F.D. She continued doing mostly TV work as a kid.

    Jodie Foster as a child

    When she was just 14, she earned her first Oscar nomination for playing a child sex worker in the movie Taxi Driver.

    Jodie Foster as a child

    Now she has two Oscars (for The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs), and her most recent movie, The Mauritanian, earned her a third Golden Globe.

    Jodie Foster

    5. Retired early: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

    Okay, this is actually two child actors, but they worked together for most of their careers before pivoting away to focus on other career ventures, like their fashion lines the Row and Elizabeth & James.

    Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as children

    Ashley quit first, with her last major role being New York Minute in 2004, and Mary-Kate followed after her last role in Beastly in 2011.

    Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen smiling

    Mary-Kate said in 2012, "If I ever get back in[to Hollywood], it's not going to be as an actress."

    Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen holding an award

    6. Stuck with acting: Scarlett Johansson.

    Scarlett Johansson

    Scarlett made her feature film debut at just 9 years old in the film North, but even before then, she'd already made her stage debut off-Broadway alongside Ethan Hawke at age 8.

    Scarlett Johansson as a child

    She's worked consistently ever since, winning a Tony Award for the play A View From the Bridge in 2010 and getting two Academy Award nominations for Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit. She was also named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2021.

    Scarlett Johansson

    7. Retired early: Peter Ostrum.

    Peter Ostrum

    Peter has exactly one acting role under his belt, and it's the starring role of Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

    Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum as a child

    After filming wrapped, he considered an acting career but quickly fell in love with veterinary medicine instead and decided to pursue that.

    Peter Ostrum

    He said in 2000, "Acting was fine, but I wanted something more steady, and the key is to find something that you love doing, and that's what my profession has given to me."

    Peter Ostrum and the cast of Willy Wonka at a reunion

    8. Stuck with acting: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt

    Joseph was scouted by a manager while performing in a preschool play, and he made his TV film debut by age 6. But perhaps his best-known childhood role was in the TV show 3rd Rock From the Sun, which premiered when he was 14.

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a child

    He now also directs, produces, and runs an online media platform called HitRecord on top of acting. He even won two nonacting Emmys for his work on HitRecord.

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt

    9. Retired early: Mara Wilson.

    Mara Wilson

    Mara started to lose interest in film acting around the same time that she started to age out of the child roles she'd famously played.

    Mara Wilson as a child

    She said in 2013, "Hollywood didn't really want me at that point, and I was kind of over it too. So, after a while, it feels like a mutual breakup."

    Mara Wilson as a child waving on the red carpet

    While she still does some acting, she does a lot of writing these days. She even wrote a memoir about her experiences as a child actor, called Where Am I Now?

    10. Stuck with acting: Kat Dennings.

    Kat Dennings on the red carpet

    Kat begged her parents to let her act as a kid and finally got her way when she was 9 years old.

    Kat Dennings in "The Scream Team"

    She landed her first TV role on Sex and the City when she was 13, and she later briefly starred alongside Brie Larson on the sitcom Raising Dad. Her first film was the 2002 DCOM The Scream Team, but she didn't get her first feature film, Raise Your Voice, until she was 17.

    Kat Dennings

    Most recently, you've probably seen her as Jules on Dollface or reprising her role of Darcy from Thor in WandaVision and Thor: Love and Thunder.

    11. Retired early: Eva Amurri.

    The daughter of actor Susan Sarandon and director Franco Amurri, Eva started acting in movies and TV shows as a kid, sometimes alongside her mother.

    Susan Sarandon and Eva Amurri

    She stopped acting in 2016, shortly after starting her lifestyle blog Happily Eva After. That being said, she might come out of retirement soon, because she recently acted in her first project in seven years, the TV show Monarch.

    She posted a two-part TikTok explanation for why she stopped acting, including the way women are treated in the industry and the lack of financial security.


    Spilling the ☕️ on why I stopped acting 7 years ago! #actress #bts #behindthescenes #actorslife #foryou

    ♬ original sound - Eva Amurri

    12. Stuck with acting: Kristen Stewart.

    Kristen Stewart

    Kristen was scouted by an agent when she was performing in a Christmas show at 8 years old. Within a year, she got a nonspeaking role in the DCOM The Thirteenth Year.

    Kristen Stewart in "The Thirteenth Year"

    She played Jodie Foster's daughter in Panic Room when she was 11 and then continued to snag starring roles in Speak, Catch That Kid, and Zathura.

    Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart

    Twilight premiered when she was 18, which is when she exploded into fame. She mostly focused on indie films after finishing the Twilight movies, though she's taken on some blockbusters lately. She earned an Oscar nomination for Spencer.

    Kristen Stewart

    13. Retired early: Amanda Bynes.

    Amanda Bynes

    Amanda was a comedic powerhouse as a kid, and her career only grew as she got older.

    Amanda Bynes

    However, after filming wrapped on Easy A in 2010, she announced her retirement by tweeting, "I don't love acting anymore so I've stopped doing it."

    Amanda Bynes

    Amanda has also struggled with mental health and legal problems that culminated in a conservatorship, which recently ended. During that time, she got a degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

    Amanda Bynes

    14. Stuck with acting: Christian Bale.

    Christian Bale

    Christian's first role was in the TV film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna when he was 10 years old, but his big break came when he got the lead role in Empire of the Sun when he was 13.

    His other notable child acting performances include Newsies and the 1994 adaptation of Little Women.

    Christian Bale in Newsies

    He's still obviously a household name these days, even winning an Oscar for his performance in The Fighter.

    Christian Bale holding an Oscar

    15. Retired early: Omri Katz.

    Omri Katz

    After a successful acting career that started when he was 7 years old and lasted into his teens, Omri played his last role in a short film in 2002.

    Omri Katz as a child holding cotton candy

    Despite his retirement from acting, he did participate in the virtual Hocus Pocus reunion in 2020, In Search of the Sanderson Sisters, and he has a Cameo, if you want a shoutout.

    These days, he runs a cannabis-culture online clothing company called the Mary Danksters.

    16. Stuck with acting: Jake Gyllenhaal.

    Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake's first role was in the movie City Slickers when he was 10 years old. However, his parents wouldn't let him go away for two months to be in The Mighty Ducks the next year, and they encouraged him to take a break from acting to go to college.

    Jake Gyllenhaal in City Slickers

    He dropped out of Columbia University after only two years, though, and he's been acting consistently ever since. He won a BAFTA for Brokeback Mountain and has been nominated for an Oscar for the same role, an acting Tony for Sea Wall/A Life, and two Best Play Tonys for producing.

    Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal

    17. Retired early: Kay Panabaker.

    Kay Panabaker

    Despite her successful Disney career, which started when she was 11, Kay's last acting project was a voice role in Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta! in 2012.

    Kay Panabaker as a child

    She's since become a zookeeper. In response to questions about why she quit, she tweeted in 2016 that she "just lost the love for acting" and she does love her current job.

    18. Stuck with acting: Ethan Hawke.

    Ethan Hawke

    Ethan got his professional start a little late in comparison with the other actors on this list. He went to his first audition at 14 and landed a role in Explorers, which was also the debut film of River Phoenix.

    Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix in Explorers

    After the movie underperformed at the box office, the disappointment caused him to step away from acting; he later said, "I would never recommend that a kid act." But he came back with Dead Poets Society.

    Ethan Hawke

    He's had a long and steady career since then and been nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, and one Tony.

    Ethan Hawke

    19. Retired early: Lisa Bonet.

    Lisa Bonet

    Lisa became a household name as Denise Huxtable, but she cut back on acting in the early 2000s to focus on family. She has three kids, including, of course, Zoë Kravitz.

    Lisa Bonet as a young woman

    She's taken on occasional roles over the years — often guest appearances on TV shows — but nothing in the last five years.

    Zoë Kravitz and Lisa Bonet

    20. Stuck with acting: Kaley Cuoco.

    Kaley Cuoco

    Kaley was in her first movie, Virtuosity, at age 9. After that, she did some smaller roles until landing a lead role in the sitcom 8 Simple Rules.

    Kaley Cuoco in Virtuosity

    She has kept acting and has received two Emmy nominations for her performance in the TV series The Flight Attendant.

    Kaley Cuoco

    21. Finally, retired early: Taylor Momsen.

    Taylor Momsen

    Taylor booked her first national commercial at age 3, and a string of iconic roles followed all the way through her teen years.

    Taylor Momsen as a child

    However, her passion was always music. She said in 2021, "When I got to an age where I could make my own decisions, I quit all my other jobs to just focus on music."

    Taylor Momsen

    She's been the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of rock band the Pretty Reckless since 2009.

    Taylor Momsen

    Did we miss your favorite child actor? Comment below!