At this festive time of year, there’s a good chance you just finished watching the young Macaulay Culkin in one of the iconic Home Alone Christmas films. However, there are more actors than you may realize who caught the acting bug before they finished middle school. Some have fallen off the radar (like Culkin or, ahem, Lindsay Lohan), but others have re-established themselves in adulthood to achieve thriving careers in show business.
One of the most prolific is Christian Bale, who burst on the scene in 1987’s Empire of the Sun at just 13 years old, and has since gone on to become one of the biggest actors in Hollywood thanks to roles like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy. On the small screen, Neil Patrick Harris made it big with Doogie Howser, M.D., long before How I Met Your Mother, while Jason Bateman landed ‘80s sitcom roles on Silver Spoons and The Hogan Family decades before Arrested Development made him a superstar.
Who else joins the list? Here are 9 famous actors who had starring roles before they even hit puberty.
When you think Ryan Gosling today, you may think of the dreamy, 36-year-old who’s had starring roles in top-grossing movies like The Notebook, The Big Short, and, most recently, La La Land. But the Canadian actor with the perfectly chiseled jaw first started acting as a 12-year-old on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club. He worked alongside others who went on to have equally successful careers in music or acting, including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Keri Russell. Additionally, he appeared in kids shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps. But it was his role in the romantic Nicholas Sparks flick The Notebook in 2004 that really set his career in motion.
The recent unfortunate death of Alan Thicke may have reminded everyone that Leonardo DiCaprio actually had a role in the final season of Thicke’s popular sitcom, Growing Pains. Before he was an A-list lead in films like Titanic, Inception, and The Revenant – the list goes on and on — Dicaprio played a homeless boy named Luke Brower, whom the Seaver family took in. He was just 17 at the time. After Robert De Niro handpicked DiCaprio for a starring role in the 1993 film This Boy’s Life, the actor’s career skyrocketed, and the rest is Hollywood royalty history.
Most older fans realize that Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard Hofstadter on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, is indeed the same actor who played Darlene’s boyfriend David on the ground-breaking ‘90s sitcom, Roseanne. But you may not know that Galecki also played Rusty, the eldest Griswold son, in 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, one of the more successful films in the franchise. He was just 14 at the time, and is one of six actors who played the character over the years, the first being Anthony Michael Hall, and the second Jason Lively, the older half brother of actor Blake Lively. Today, Galecki is one of the highest-paid actors on television alongside his Big Bang co-stars, who reportedly rake in $1 million per episode.