One of my bugbears is the notion that all or even most child stars end up in some dark alley dead from an overdose of drugs or in prison after too many drunken smash and grabs at the jewelry store. Paul Peterson has made a career out of dragging around the same five or six stories of dysfunctional child stars. What brought this to mind was a random stop on the channel showing The Horse Whisperer and realizing that the little girl was Scarlett Johansson. I also have noted several movies with Natalie Portman including some, like The Professional, which were favorites and I didn’t even realize the little girl was Natalie Portman. That’s only two child stars that never seemed to undergo a dysfunctional phase; both grew up to become beautiful women and quite good actors. There are many others, both men and women.
What further focused my opinion was one of the stories in Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. This so-called novel has the somewhat lame structure of a bunch of writers holed up in a cabin and telling horror stories but the stories themselves are often rather good (and some a tad gory). One tells the story of a freelance writer who realizes that the veterinarian treating his dog is a very famous child star grown up and living a successful life outside of the entertainment industry. When the journalist pitches an article interviewing the once child actor, the editor turns the journalist away, telling him that no one wants to hear about a child star that grew up happy and successful. The turn is that the journalist drugs the veterinarian, plants child pornography around the house, and with a clean revolver and a forged suicide note, enacts the tragic death of yet another child star that couldn’t adjust to adult life, no longer being the center of attention.
Of course the new slant on the story is snapped up by the editor, the journalist becomes famous, sought after for features, and makes a lot of money.
Yet another dysfunctional child star.