Six child actors who retired from showbiz

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

  • Published
Cast of Stranger ThingsImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Stranger Things is one of Netflix's most successful shows

Child stars have been a crucial part of Hollywood for generations, but many of them choose totally different careers in adulthood.

The second season of Netflix's hugely popular drama Stranger Things will premiere on Halloween 2017, the streaming service confirmed earlier this year.

The show stars Winona Ryder and David Harbour but also relies heavily on its cast of child actors, who play some of the main characters.

The young stars have been praised for their performances in the show, and could well have bright futures in Hollywood ahead of them.

But the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry isn't for everyone.

For every Drew Barrymore or Jodie Foster, there are plenty of child actors who chose to go in totally different directions in their adult years.

Here are six child stars who left acting behind to pursue new careers.

Peter Ostrum

Image source, Rex / Shutterstock

You might not recognise the name, but Ostrum played Charlie in the big-screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The 1971 film saw Ostrum appear alongside four other child actors as one of Willy Wonka's five golden ticket winners.

"Everybody thinks that acting is such a glamorous profession, but it's a difficult profession," he said after starring in the film.

That may explain why he quit acting and became a vet as an adult instead.

Some of the other young actors in the film picked up a few more big screen roles in the years after the film, but nearly all drifted away from Hollywood.

Michael Bollner, who played Augustus Gloop, for example, now works as an accountant in Munich.

Mara Wilson

Image source, Rex / Getty

In the 1990s, it was difficult to go to the cinema without seeing a film with Mara Wilson in it.

She starred in Miracle on 34th Street, Mrs Doubtfire, A Simple Wish and Matilda.

But then, as she entered her teenage years, the former child actress retreated from the limelight.

"I was 13 and I was awkward, and I was gawky, and I was not a very cute kid anymore," Wilson told The Huffington Post in 2013.

"So, 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. That's the way that I'd describe it."

Wilson is now a writer and released a book last year called Where Am I Now?

She also came out as bisexual in support of the victims of the attack on an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.

Mary Badham

Image source, Rex / Getty

Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird was an instant literary phenomenon when it was first released in 1960, and is still considered a classic.

When the inevitable big-screen adaptation was made, Mary Badham was hired to play the role of Scout, the young girl who serves as the book's narrator.

Badham became the youngest actress ever nominated for the best supporting actress category at the Oscars after her appearance in the film (although the record was broken a decade later by the marginally younger Tatum O'Neal).

She went on to act in a few other films released in the 1960s, but then gave up on the profession for the rest of her life - with one exception.

Badham was coaxed out of retirement for a minor role in one film - 2005's Our Very Own - after its director, Cameron Watson, said he wouldn't accept any other actress for the part.

She now works an art restorer and a college testing coordinator, but often writes about her experiences on Mockingbird and attended a special screening of the film with President Obama in 2012.

"When I retired, I was at an in-between age. I wasn't a child anymore, I wasn't really a woman yet and they weren't really writing scripts for that age," she said later that year.

Shirley Temple

Image source, Getty Images

Not many of us can claim to have started our career at the age of three - but that's exactly what Shirley Temple did.

As a child actress, she starred in a whole host of films, including Bright Eyes, The Little Princess, Heidi and Captain January.

But in her adult years, she entered politics and public affairs, becoming a Republican fundraiser and serving three years as the United States Ambassador to (what was then known as) Czechoslovakia.

She also had a mocktail named after her - which, thank you for asking, consists of ginger ale (or lemonade) and a splash of grenadine, garnished with a maraschino cherry.

When Temple died in 2014 at the age of 85, she left behind a remarkable legacy - no child star since has ever come close to equalling her record of being Hollywood's top box office star for four years in a row.

Mark Lester

Image source, Getty / REX

Mark Lester was just 10 years old when he was cast as Oliver in, er, Oliver.

The film adaptation of the stage musical was released in 1968 - more than 130 years after Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist was first published.

Lester took various roles over the following decade but decided to give up acting at the age of 19 and became an osteopath.

"Child actors going on to become adult actors never really works, apart from a few. Jodie Foster was the exception," he told The Independent.

He and Michael Jackson - who was born in the same year - were close friends, and Lester became godfather to the singer's three children.

Ariana Richards

Image source, REX/Shutterstock

Richards took on a few small acting jobs throughout her childhood, but shot to fame playing Lex Murphy in 1993's Jurassic Park - a role she filmed when she was just 12 years old.

She briefly reprised the role for The Lost World: Jurassic Park four years later, but then took a step back from acting to focus on her art career.

Richards graduated in 2001 with a degree in fine art and drama and went on to become a successful painter.

But, in 2011, she said: "Being interested in acting never changes. Acting is in your blood, and of course I'll always be interested in it."

Which explains why she was briefly tempted back in 2013 for a role in TV movie Battledogs.

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