Through the years...10 great performances by child actors

Jacob Tremblay has been garnering rave reviews for his performance in Room

As Jacob Tremblay impresses in Room, Marjorie Brennan selects 10 other great performances by child actors through the years

JACOB Tremblay has been garnering rave reviews for his performance as Jack in the Irish Oscar-nominated film Room.

The nine-year-old from Vancouver has been nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar and could become the youngest ever winner if he gets the nod from the Academy. Director Lenny Abrahamson has hailed his performance as one of the best he has ever seen by any actor. Here are 10 more memorable performances by child actors, most of whom have navigated the pitfalls of stardom at a young age and some of whom have gone on to achieve even greater success.

Drew Barrymore (ET)

Drew Barrymore (below right) is the ultimate Hollywood survivor, packing a lifetime of acting roles and experience into her 40 years. Barrymore was only six when she lit up the screen as Gertie, Eliot’s younger sister in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster ET (1982).

The intensity of such stardom proved too much for Barrymore, who ended up in rehab at 14. In the mid 1990s, she had a career resurgence, culminating in producing and starring in Charlie’s Angels in 2000.

She directed Whip It in 2009 and her production company has also gone from strength to strength. She and her second husband, comedian Tom Green, honeymooned in Ireland; the marriage lasted nine months — both facts may or may not be related. She married husband number three, Will Kopelman, in 2012 and they have two daughters. She is also godmother to Frances Bean, the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.

Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore

Natalie Portman (Leon)

Twelve-year-old Portman turned heads in Hollywood with her luminous performance as an orphan who befriends a hitman in this Luc Besson-directed thriller from 1994.

After taking several more roles, including playing Anne Frank on Broadway, Portman was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 1997. She juggled the role with her high-school studies and completed a psychology degree at Harvard in 2003. She won an Oscar in 2011 for her role as a mentally fragile ballerina in Black Swan.

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman

She married Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer for that film, in 2012, and they have one son.

Anna Paquin (The Piano)

Paquin (above), at 11, was the second-youngest performer to win an Oscar when she was decorated for her performance in The Piano in 1994, the youngest ever still being Tatum O’Neal for Paper Moon, 20 years earlier.

While O’Neal became better known for her off-screen exploits and marriage to tennis star John McEnroe, Paquin continued to carve out a career in acting. After several low-key roles, she starred as Rogue in the X-Men franchise, but is now best-known for her role in the TV series True Blood.

Paquin most recently voiced one of the characters in the The Good Dinosaur from Disney-Pixar, and is also set to star in a remake of Roots. She married co-star Stephen Moyer in 2010 and gave birth to twins in 2012.

Lukas Haas (Witness)

There is an abundance of brilliant scenes to choose from in Witness (1985), but it is hard to forget the electrifying moment when the eight-year-old Haas, playing young Amish boy Jacob, directs detective John Book (Harrison Ford) to the picture of the cop (Danny Glover) he saw murder another police officer in a train station toilet.

Haas gives a mesmerising, yet understated, performance as the moral centre of the Peter Weir-directed thriller. Haas, now 39, has appeared in over 50 feature films and a number of television shows and stage productions. He also plays piano and drums and has appeared in music videos for Outkast and My Chemical Romance. He regularly appears on gossip websites in his role as Leonardo di Caprio’s BFF.

Eamonn Owens (The Butcher Boy)

Cavan-born Owens, then 13, gave a universally-lauded performance as the tormented Francie Brady in Neil Jordan’s acclaimed adaptation of Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1997).

He won an award at the Berlin Film Festival for his role and went on to star in Angela’s Ashes and The Magdalene Sisters. He has continued to work as an actor, most recently appearing in the hit RTÉ series Love/Hate.

Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire)

Another Neil Jordan film and another standout performance from a child actor, this time Kirsten Dunst. Dunst was only 10 when she landed the role of the precocious vampire Claudia in Interview with the Vampire (1994).

Dunst received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance against two of the world’s most famous leading men, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. She went on to appear in Little Women, Spiderman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides.

Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst

More recently, she has won acclaim for her role as Peggy in the TV show Fargo.

Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire)

Lipnicki held his own, and more, opposite the star power of Tom Cruise in Cameron Crowe’s sharply-scripted tale of a sports agent searching for meaning.

The then five-year-old showed preternatural poise as Ray, the son of single mum Dorothy (Renée Zellweger). In a movie featuring a standout performance by Cuba Gooding Jr and many memorable lines, Lipnicki’s delivery of “did you know the human head weighs eight pounds” bewitched audiences everywhere.

He went on to star in Stuart Little and Stuart Little 2 and, after taking some time out to attend high school, has resumed his acting career. The now 25-year-old is an MMA enthusiast and has gained a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Lipnicki still keeps in touch with Cruise. “He’s really been there for me,” he said recently.

Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense)

When 10-year-old Osment (above) uttered the phrase “I see dead people” in M Night Shyamalan’s spooky thriller, a pop culture phenomenon was born.

Osment, who had previously played the son of Forrest Gump, was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his spellbinding turn opposite Bruce Willis in the smash hit. Osment went on to star in Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence and opposite Kevin Spacey in Pay it Forward. In 2006, Osment crashed his car and was given three years probation for driving under the influence of alcohol and misdemeanour drug possession. He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2011 and continues to act, appearing in several TV shows.

Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Breslin was only five when she appeared in another Shyamalan hit, Signs, opposite Mel Gibson, in 2002. However, her breakout role was as the endearingly kooky Olive in the indie smash hit, Little Miss Sunshine, four years later.

Breslin was Oscar-nominated for her hugely affecting performance in a heavyweight cast as the little girl who ends up taking her dysfunctional family on a road trip to a beauty pageant.

Her talents were somewhat under-utilised in the roles which followed, mainly rom-coms. She is currently starring in the US television show Scream Queens.

Lindsay Lohan (The Parent Trap)

It’s hard to believe now but the notorious LiLo was the epitome of cuteness in her role(s) in The Parent Trap (1998).

The 11-year-old was universally acclaimed for her sparky portrayal of twins who meet, having spent their childhoods apart and then try to reunite their estranged parents (Dennis Quaid and the late Natasha Richardson). Lohan went on to even greater success in Freaky Friday and Mean Girls and also released a couple of successful albums before it all went pear-shaped.

Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan

She was in the news again last week after she was thrown out of a New York bar for reportedly abusing the bartender and customers.


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