Kids Those Days: Respectful Child Stars of Yesteryear

Oh, child stars. You know those Thursday mornings when you are just sitting around, writing about stuff and you think, why don’t they make child stars like they used to make them? I think the huge difference between kid actors these days and kid actors back then–the ones who were not particularly owned by a corporation like Disney or Nickelodeon–is Humility. When I was brought up, which was really not all that long ago, I was taught to respect my elders, to be honest with my emotions, and to have a great time doing whatever I chose to do.

I was not a famous kid, but if I had been, the rules would have still applied. These days, I do not see the things in kid actors that we used to see. Entitlement, man. It’s a bummer.

The kids of yesteryear:

1. Macaulay Culkin
Then: 10 years old
Now: 32 years old
Culkin is obviously our generation’s go-to child actor, and though he seems a bit troubled these days (I refuse to acknowledge it, for he is perfect in my eyes), there was so much child-like behavior within him, even back when he knew he was a big shot making movies like Uncle Buck and Home Alone. At the end of the day, he was still a kid with a ton of obnoxious siblings like the rest of us. And listening to Culkin explain a Game Boy is the most 90s thing that has ever happened to me.
Culkin: We played Nintendo.
Interviewer: Nintendo? What’s that?
Culkin: It’s kind of a video game system.

He. Is. The. Cutest.

  • 2. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
  • Then: 4 years old
  • Now: 26 years old
  • Mary-Kate: My favorite thing is eating a cake.
  • Ashley: I’ve been on Full House for…EVER.
  • Mannnnnnnnnn, they grow up so fast!

Also, just for kicks and giggles because there are two of them, there should be two interviews. Remember how awesome the Rosie show was? When they were 14 years old, listen to them talk over each other. It is so cute, do you think it is too late for me to be their triplet?

For girls that grew up on television, and eventually in the movies, I feel that the Olsen twins were very aware of themselves, and consistently had a great time, which is what life is truly all about.

3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Then: 17 years old
Now: 32 years old
Check out how modest (and adorable) Levitt is/was. In fact, I feel like Levitt still has the exact personality he had when he was a kid, and thank god for that. At this point in his career, Levitt had been on 3rd Rock From the Sun long enough that he did not necessarily have to be as gentle as he is in this interview with Conan O”Brien (and Andy!), yet he never let the fame go to his head. As we have watched him grow into a mega movie star, he has not lost a thing. Except maybe those sandals, but I even kinda hope not.

Levitt: Why should a woman lose her name? Why should she?

4. Elijah Wood
Then: 10 years old
Now: 32 years old
Way, way, way before he was Frodo, or really anything else, little Wood plugged his movie Paradise in an interview for E! When asked to do a promo for them, he goes, “what’s that?” A child actor who didn’t even know how to do a promo! Is that even a thing? And to get even more awesome, Wood gives advice to other kids about “doing your best,” and “just having fun.”

Can we get this again? Can these kids come back to us? And please don’t stop watching before the karate part.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio
Then: 18 years old
Now: 34 years old
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, DiCaprio talks about “teeny boppers” recognizing him in malls, and the cutest part is when he talks about girls “going nuts” over him, he says that it isn’t his favorite thing to happen to him. Funny that this is before Titanic, when the poor kid became the wall paper of every girl in America–mostly talking about myself right now, and yes, I still have one of my posters up.

He calls himself shy. Kids these days aren’t even raised to be shy. Oh, Leo. We love you, and your remaining timidity. What a Scorpio.

  • 6. FredSavage
  • Then: something like 12 years old.
  • Now: 36 years old
  • First of all, could you not just listen to Savage talk forever? Best voice alive.
  • Savage: I’m really happy, you know. I’m having a great time acting. I’m just…having a great time.
  • When dear Regis Philbin goes on to talk to Savage about playing a character in love, listening to Savage talk about Winnie Cooper is so adult in an innocent way.

Most of all, the best part of these interviews is hearing Savage mention how he might want to direct. At 12(ish) years old, planning the future that he actually has is radical.

  • 7. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint
  • Then: 11 years old, 13 years old
  • Now: 22 years old, 24 years old

Miss Watson, in particular, is so incredibly unpretentious in all of her interviews always, but can you imagine being 11 years old and cast as Hermione Granger? Listening to her talk about how terrifying the flashing lights and crowds were is so reassuring. Knowing that that kind of behavior did not seem natural to her, but actually freaked her out makes me feel a million times better about life. The coolest thing? She seems as normal today as she did then.

(Then later in life, they had to kiss, and just any excuse to show this and I’m happy.)

8. Sean Astin
Then: 14 years old
Now: 42 years old
Though this interview has all of the Goonies in it (I love you, Goonies!), Astin is particularly noticeable for his nonchalant responses. “It was too fun to be scared.”

“Too fun” is the thing. What a true kid.

9. Freddie Highmore
Then: 13 years old
Now: 21 years old
In an interview with Johnny Depp about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we get a great glimpse into Highmore’s personal character. After his stand out role in Finding Neverland (also with Depp), the world caught on that Highmore was, well, different than other kids. His utmost admiration for Depp, not to mention his comfort around him, is not just super endearing, but is truly respectful. The key to a successful child actor, for sure.
Highmore: He’s a really nice guy. I’m just really lucky.
DeppI’m lucky. No one was happier than me than when I found out Freddie would be playing Charlie.


  • 10. Drew Barrymore
  • Then: 9 years old
  • Now: 38 years old
  • Though riddled with “child actor” syndrome for some time, Barrymore has grown up to be a truly phenomenal woman. She comes from a long line of fame and big household names, and she has grown up to be incredibly functional.

Back in the day, when Barrymore was tiny and promoting her movie Irreconcilable Differences, she put on a humongous fluffy old prom-like dress and candidly spoke of meeting the President of the United States of America, and eventually explored why she likes New York City better than Los Angeles. Because who doesn’t want to run around in their thermies instead of wearing a bikini? Drew is such a HelloGiggles girl, and I love her.

Who are your favorite child stars, and what sets them apart from the “kids these days”?

Jeez, guys, I am getting old.

Featured image via , Rupert and Emma image via, Johnny and Freddie image via