It’s never easy dealing with life as a child star and the new documentary Showbiz Kids shines a light on it. The documentary — written and directed by former child star Alex Winter of The Lost Boys fame — talks about the real lives of former child stars in Hollywood.
The 90 minutes long documentary Showbiz Kids features interviews with many child actors including Evan Rachel Wood, Milla Jovovich, Mara Wilson, Wil Wheaton, Henry Thomas, Todd Bridges and the late Cameron Boyce.
The hour and a half long doc spoke about their big breaks, feeling s*xualized at a young age, drugs and more. Some revealed their personal experiences with s*xual abuse as well as seeing peers turn to drugs, and what happens when you are no longer a ‘child star.’ Here are some highlights from the documentary:
Joining the Business
Jovovich of Return to the Blue Lagoon fame flat-out said she hated acting as a kid. Boyce, who got a break on Disney’s Jesse when he was 11, admitted child stars “don’t know jack shit about the world.” Thomas (of ET fame), said he was bullied by some of his classmates who insisted on calling him Hollywood or ET. Added child Bridges of Diff’rent Strokes fame, “Most child actors don’t get to be regular children.”
For Wilson of Mrs. Doubtfire fame, everything escalated after the film’s success but she “was having a blast” at the time. She also struggled with school because she didn’t really develop a work ethic on set, where everything was done for her. Wheaton (Stand By Me and Stark Trek fame) wound up in the industry because his mother wanted him to.
Wood (Thirteen and Westworld), she said most of her youth was spent on her own. She said she felt an immense amount of pressure to continue acting because she thought she’d disappoint others if she wasted her talent.
Talking about s*xual abuse, Bridges opened up about and claimed that he started getting abused by his publicist when he was just 11. Wheaton said he struggled when he “turned into a teen magazine, teeny-bopper idol kid,” adding that he really “hated all that stuff” at the time.
As for the women in the documentary, they all felt s*xualized at an extremely young age. Jovovich recalled being called “this little Lolita,” while taking headshots.
Wilson said she started picking up on older men knowing who she was, which she said ‘felt wrong.’ Wood said she was often put into sexual situations on film where a lot of her first experiences wound up on camera.
Bridges briefly touched on his issues with substance abuse. Wheaton’s words about his Stand By Me co-star River Phoenix shed light on how drugs can take hold. Saying River was like an older brother whose life and career he idolized, Wheaton explained that when he was 15 or 16, Phoenix started experimenting with drugs and it was around that time the two began to drift apart. He continued that by the time River died, he hadn’t spoken to him for a couple of years.
Outliving the child star period
A child star’s life always comes to an end. While some young talents ending up abandoning or feeling abandoned by the industry others go on to have lengthy careers in their adult lives.
Wood said that when he was in his early 20s he realized that he has no life skills. She continued to act and become an advocate for sexual abuse survivors. Thomas said that as a teenager, nobody was looking for “teenage me, they were looking for ‘ET’ me. Jovovich had a solid career owing to The Fifth Element and Resident Evil movies.
Wilson said Hollywood was no longer interested in her because she was not a cute teenager anymore. She later turned to write and released a book about being a child star. Boyce said he began to question everything when others starting asking him about going to college.
He said that while he wanted to experiment with his roles he still wanted to be a good example for his fans. Boyce sadly passed away in 2019 at the age of 20, due to complications of epilepsy.
The film is available on HBO and HBO Max.