The Unlikely Post-Hollywood Careers of Retired Child Actors
The course of child stardom never did run smoothly, ending less often in Oscars for lifetime achievement than in drug addiction, financial destitution and televised therapy with Dr. Drew. With that in mind, it was something of a relief when big-named small person Quvenzhané Wallis announced last week that she doesn’t want to stay in the spotlight forever. The 11-year-old star of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Annie aspires to one day become a veterinarian.
In case Wallis finds herself in need of role models, here are some former famous kids who turned their backs on Hollywood to pursue professions that have nothing (or very little) to do with show business. Stars: they’re just like us—sometimes.
Peter Ostrum, Veterinarian
It didn’t take long for Charlie Bucket to lose his taste for acting (and, presumably, blueberry gum) after Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory was released in 1971. He’s now a veterinarian specializing in horses and cattle.
Michael Schoeffling, Carpenter
Molly Ringwald’s human birthday present in Sixteen Candles has withdrawn from the public eye to work as a carpenter in Pennsylvania, producing what are no doubt the hunkiest hand-carved chair legs of all time.
Kirk Cameron, Evangelist
Cameron ascended to full-blown heartthob status on Growing Pains, but became a born-again Christian at 17. Today he runs an evangelical ministry that’s been known to reflect on bananas. Cameron hasn’t entirely given up on acting, taking a lead role in 2000’s Left Behind, the apocalyptic orgy of terror and mediocre writing based on the best-selling religious novels.
See also: Willie Aames, the Eight Is Enough alum who later resurfaced as the Christian-themed superhero Bibleman.
Jeff Cohen, Entertainment Lawyer
Chunk cheekily acknowledges his Truffle Shuffling past in a biography on his firm’s website: “[Cohen] also has the dubious distinction of being a former child actor, appearing most notably in the Richard Donner/Steven Spielberg film The Goonies, but please don’t hold that against him.”
Josh Saviano, Intellectual Property Lawyer
No, Paul from The Wonder Years did not grow up to be Marilyn Manson.
Charlie Korsmo, Law Professor
After studying physics at MIT, Korsmo—whom you might recognize from Hook, Can’t Hardly Wait, Dick Tracy and What About Bob?—went on to Yale Law and a professorship at Case Western.
Arianna Richards, Painter
Eve Plumb, Painter
Jan Brady has been a working artist for more than 20 years.
Susan Olsen, Graphic Designer
Not unlike her TV big sister, Cindy Brady pursued design, finding success as both a graphic artist and an art director.
Ilan Mitchell-Smith, English Professor
Anthony Michael Hall’s Weird Science co-star teaches medieval literature at Cal State Long Beach, and according to Rate My Professor, he’s killing it.
Jason Zimbler, Software Engineer
Annoying little brother to Melissa Joan Hart on Clarissa Explains It All, Ferguson still works in TV, sort of—he’s a software designer for HBO.
Michael Connor Humphreys, U.S. Army
The 8-year-old actor who played young Forrest Gump—and whose thick real-life accent inspired Tom Hanks’ own performance—went on to serve his country in Iraq (and elsewhere) from 2005 to 2008.
Dan Lloyd, Biology Professor
After permanently scarring our collective psyche as Jack Nicholson’s telepathic son Danny in The Shining, Lloyd made just one more movie before retiring from acting as a teenager. Today he teaches biology at Elizabethtown Community College in Kentucky.
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Louise Burns, Microbiologist
One of the unforgettably creepy twins (Louise, on the right) who invited Danny to come play is now a microbiologist. Her sister Lisa (on the left) studied literature. They never made another film, although they do tweet under the handle @Shining_twins.
Carrie Henn, School Teacher
The adorable little girl that Ripley protected in Aliens now wrangles terrifying terrestrial lifeforms as a teacher in her hometown of Atwater, California.
Barret Oliver, Printer, Eccentric Dude
In case you haven’t been paying close attention over the last 30 years, Bastian from The NeverEnding Story grew up, cultivated some unique facial hair and wrote a historical account of an obscure photographic process. As one does.