From the outside, child stars appear to live a charmed life.
Cute as a button with enough money to last a lifetime before they’ve even hit their teens, we assume young celebrities have years of good times ahead of them.
Still, fame and fortune at such a young age comes with a price, and behind the scenes their lives are often not as happy-go-lucky as we imagine – whether it’s exposure to drugs and alcohol or abusive “showbiz” parents.
Take for example Drew Barrymore, one of the few child actors to make it through to the other side.
After her break out role in E.T the Extra-terrestrial in 1982 at age 4, Drew became one of the decades most famous child stars.
However, she quickly fell in with a bad crowd. She began smoking at age 9, drinking at age 11, moved on to marijuana by age 12 and was snorting cocaine by age 13.
By 14-years-old she had attempted suicide and attended rehab, but today she’s since turned her life around and is once again one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
Sadly, others aren’t so fortunate, a famous example being River Phoenix, the older brother of A-lister Joaquin.
Best known for his roles in 80’s classics Stand by Me and Explorers, River was only 23 when he overdosed outside music venue The Viper Room on LA’s Sunset Strip – the result of speedballing cocaine and morphine.
Many of his contemporaries didn’t fare much better, whether they died not long after making it big or further down line as a result of their childhood trauma.
One of the big reasons why child stars go into meltdown is because they get accustomed to all of the attention and perks that come with fame, and then suddenly BAM! They loose it all with they grow up.
Being famous can very often mean that your ego becomes inflated, and children are no exception.
They’re showered with compliments and gifts, fans write to them and they shout their name when they see them.
Once they hit puberty, however, chances they will remain in the business are slim.
When fame is taken away from a child so suddenly, they may not be able to handle the sudden change in lifestyle and turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.
Sometimes tragically, the circumstances of their fame even lead to their untimely deaths.
Here are 15 childhood stars who’s lives were tragically cut short.
1. Heather O’Rourke
If there’s any film out there that’s truly cursed, it’s Steven Spielberg’s classic horror The Poltergeist.
Heather O’Rourke played youngest Freeling child Carol Anne for all three films in the franchise, but it wasn’t the ghosts that got her in the end – it was complications during surgery to remove an acute bowel obstruction.
O’Rourke also had a recurring role on Happy Days from 1982 to 1983, and she made several television guest appearances.
Spielberge spotted the five-year-old having lunch with her mother while older sister Tammy was shooting Pennies from Heaven.
After his lunch, Spielberg approached the family and offered O’Rourke the Poltergeist role; she was signed the next day, beating Drew Barrymore, who was also up for the role.
She was only 12-years-old.
2. Gary Coleman
Best known for playing the adorable Arnold Jackson on classic sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, Gary Coleman died of a brain hemorrhage in 2010 at 42-years-old.
Coleman’s career began when he appeared in a commercial for Harris Bank. His line (after the announcer said, “You should have a Harris banker.”) was “You should have a Hubert doll.”
“Hubert” was a stuffed lion representing the Harris bank logo.
At the height of his fame on Diff’rent Strokes, he earned $100,000 per episode.
The ex-child actor had lapsed into a coma, and passed shortly after being taken off life support.
Continue onto page 2