'90s Child Stars Who Absolutely Hated Fame

While getting an early start in Hollywood may pave the way for a long and successful career, that's not to say being a child star is an easy road. "I'll always look at child stardom, at what I went through, as something traumatic for me," singer and actor Demi Lovato told Spin in 2022. "No child should ever be in the limelight. It's too much pressure." Lovato, of course, is not the first former child star to open up about their experience — and they certainly won't be the last. Throughout the '90s, audiences were introduced to a number of talented young actors who stole the show in TV series and movies alike. And a number of those actors have reflected on their experiences as kids in show biz. 

Some former '90s child stars are still very much involved with the acting world. To this day, actors like Ryan Gosling, Kenan Thompson, and Kirsten Dunst stay busy building their filmographies. Others like Jimmy Workman, who played Pugsley in "The Addams Family," completely disappeared from view. Many took their careers in other directions, like Charlie Korsmo, who eventually became a lawyer; Korsmo's "Hook" co-star Amber Scott remained in the entertainment industry but found her passion behind the camera. 

Fame isn't for everyone, and the pressures that come with it can be a lot to take on — especially for a little kid. Keep reading as we take a deep dive into the '90s child stars who absolutely hated being famous.

Jake Lloyd was bullied for his Star Wars role

In 1977, "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope" blasted into theaters and changed the film world forever. Two movies and nearly two decades later, George Lucas released the prequel trilogy, which began with 1999's "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace." With the success of the original trilogy, it was no surprise that actors were lining up to take on roles in the newest "Star Wars" chapter. It had an impressive cast, which included Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Terence Stamp, Warwick Davis, and Natalie Portman. Also in the starting lineup for the feature was Jake Lloyd, who played the young version of Anakin Skywalker. (In the later installments, Anakin was played by Hayden Christensen.)

This should have been a dream role for Lloyd, but portraying Anakin ended up being a nightmare. The "Star Wars" fandom was not kind to him, and his classmates were relentless. "My entire school life was really a living hell — and I had to do up to 60 interviews a day," Lloyd recalled to the Telegraph (via Insider). It got so bad that he resented his fame and any moment in the spotlight ended up causing him distress. "I've learned to hate it when the cameras are pointed at me," he said. Even after quitting acting in 2002, the bullying continued in college. Before long, Lloyd completely removed himself from the entertainment industry. 

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen retreated from the public eye as soon as they could

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are arguably two of the biggest child stars from the '90s and '00s. One of their most notable roles, jointly playing Michelle Tanner in "Full House," saw them acting on-screen before they were even a year old. They then went on to form their own production company, Dualstar, and the pair subsequently made millions with features like "It Takes Two" and "New York Minute."

However, their experience in the film industry was not as charmed as their young fans imagined. Behind the scenes, the Olsen twins didn't love their life in the spotlight, which all started because their mom sent their picture to a casting agent friend when they were babies. "I look at old photos of me, and I don't feel connected to them at all... I would never wish my upbringing on anyone," Mary Kate admitted to Marie Claire. "[We were] little monkey performers," she added.

So, when they were old enough to say no, they did. The Olsen twins hung up their actor hats and pursued their true passion: fashion. Nowadays, they prefer quiet life behind the scenes, attend very few major events, and only have a social media presence when it's necessary for their fashion work. There were some rumblings about whether or not they'd jump back into the fray for "Fuller House," but the twins swiftly turned down the "Full House" reboot. 

Jonathan Taylor Thomas hated any moments in the spotlight

From 1991 to 1998, Jonathan Taylor Thomas played Randy Taylor on the massive sitcom "Home Improvement." As if he wasn't busy enough with the wildly popular series, the child star had a string of huge movies throughout the decade, too: JTT voiced young Simba in "The Lion King," played Tom Sawyer in "Tom and Huck," and starred opposite Chevy Chase in "Man of the House." And just when it seemed like nothing could slow his career, he famously left "Home Improvement" at the beginning of the 8th season to go to college. And after taking on a handful of smaller roles throughout the early 2000s, Thomas hit the brakes on his acting career altogether around 2005. He did return to the small screen in 2013 to reunite with Tim Allen on "Last Man Standing"; he also directed three episodes of the sitcom. 

Thomas enjoyed acting, but the celebrity thing was not really his thing. "I never took the fame too seriously. It was a great period in my life, but it doesn't define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers," he told People. And, although Thomas can separate the good memories of his time in the entertainment industry from the pressures of fame, it doesn't seem like he's in any rush to get back on screens.

Being a child actor was the source of a lot of problems for Mara Wilson

Having already starred in classics like "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Miracle of 34th Street," Mara Wilson was basically an industry veteran when it came time to play the titular child prodigy in "Matilda." From the outside looking in, Wilson was golden, forging an impressive career for herself at such a young age. However, things were very different behind the scenes. "I was very depressed, I was very anxious, I can barely even remember 'Matilda' coming out. I only have vague memories of the premiere, and it was really hard for me," she shared with NPR's Rachel Martin. "I think that I definitely became kind of disenchanted with acting, with Hollywood, while, at the same time, it was a crutch for me." 

Being a public figure never got easier for Wilson. As she told The Guardian, "People don't realise how much constantly talking to the press as a child weighs on you." She also felt that she could never hold a candle to the fictional characters she played in movies. "I couldn't stand to disappoint people," she said. By the 2000s, Wilson's acting career was on the back burner. 

While in college, Wilson got into writing. In 2016, "Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame," her book about her life and career, was released. Aside from lending her voice to animated series like "Big Hero 6" and "BoJack Horseman," she doesn't seem interested in getting back into acting.

Christina Ricci said dealing with fame as a child was hard

Christina Ricci is easily one of the most famous child stars of the '90s. After a supporting role in "Mermaids," she gained international recognition for playing Wednesday Addams in the 1991 film "The Addams Family" and its 1993 sequel, "Addams Family Values." From there, she went on to star in other spooky classics like "Casper" and "Sleepy Hollow." Ricci struggled as she became more famous with every role she took on, as she was not that excited about her career. "I had a very hard time with fame as a child, being interviewed and being asked about my life. ... No child should be held up for adults to criticize, question, interview, weigh in on. It's the reason we don't have pictures of our children up online. It's the same thing," she told IndieWire.

It was only after she grew up that she was able to really think about what she wanted; as she said in IndieWire, she felt "exploited" when she was a kid. Despite her complex feelings about being a child actor, she eventually developed a passion for acting and chose to make it her career. Ricci's more recent roles include "Z: The Beginning of Everything" and "Yellowjackets." She also returned to the world created by Charles Addams as she passed the torch of her beloved character to Jenna Ortega in Netflix's "Wednesday."

Michael Oliver's career was forced on him

When you hear the name Michael Oliver, then you probably think of red-headed troublemaker Junior Healy from the 1990 comedy "Problem Child." Oliver reprised his role the following year for the sequel and it marked the start of a promising career for the young actor. However, after the 1995 film "Dillinger and Capone," a few on-off TV appearances, and an uncredited role in "Forrest Gump," Oliver disappeared from the acting scene.

While it's easy to assume that child stars want to take a break from acting for school, or they faded out of view because they'd aged out of playing cute kids, neither was the case for Oliver. He sent the record straight during a 2012 reunion for the film franchise. Per People, the "Problem Child" star admitted, "After having been thrust into the spotlight as a child, I appreciate some peace and quiet." Although he doesn't look at his acting career as a complete disaster, Oliver hated being famous. "I'm actually quite happy with my life the way it is today. I have a decent job. I work hard. I have a beautiful girlfriend. We have three cats and a hamster. It's a nice, quiet existence. I like it," he said.

Oliver now has a job working in tech and uses his family surname Ponce, according to Refinery29. We've heard very little from Oliver since the reunion, so he must be off working hard and enjoying that quiet life he's built for himself.

Natalie Portman hated the way she was treated as a child star

Oscar winner Natalie Portman has done incredibly well for herself and is a household name around the world. However, when she was working as a child actor in the '90s, she hated being a celebrity.

Portman said childhood fame and the way she was perceived was terrifying. "Being sexualized as a child, I think, took away from my own sexuality, because it made me afraid," she revealed on the "Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard" podcast. She started feeling this way after playing Marty in the 1996 film "Beautiful Girls." It got so bad that it tainted Portman's love of acting. "I would start choosing parts that were less sexy, because it made me worried about the way I was perceived and how safe I felt," the "Black Swan" star said.

And things went from bad to worse after Portman starred in the "Star Wars" prequel movies, the first when she was just 17. However, Portman came to regret her "Star Wars" role when she suddenly struggled to land other work. But, thankfully, she's managed to make a comeback and has since made peace with her fame as an adult.

Ross Bagley hated being recognized

From "The Little Rascals" to "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," Ross Bagley might have been one of the most adorable kids on the small screen in the '90s. Playing Nicky Barnes on the Will Smith-led series was a dream come true for Bagley, too. As he said on a 2020 episode of the "Hip Hop Uncensored" podcast, he was a diehard fan of the sitcom long before he was cast. 

However, Bagley's love of acting could not outweigh how much he hated the fame that came with it. He followed up his stint on "Fresh Prince" by playing Will Smith's stepson in "Independence Day," but it wasn't long before Bagley put his successful child acting career to bed because he hated the level of fame he'd reached. "I wanted to kind of live, like, a more normal type of life," he said on the podcast after admitting that during the height of his family he was recognized everywhere. Bagley even recalled being chased out of a mall while just trying to go about his daily life. "I lived an under-the-radar life before and generally, that's kind of how I am, more laid back and reserved," Bagley added.

Anna Chlumsky felt like a commodity as a child star

Chicago-born actor Anna Chlumsky had a relatively normal childhood prior to starring in the romantic-comedy-drama "My Girl" in 1991 at the age of 10. Her previous acting gigs, which consisted of a small role in the John Hughes comedy "Uncle Buck" didn't cause too much of a stir, but playing Vada Sultenfuss thrust Chlumsky into unexpected stardom. She reprised her role for "My Girl 2" in 1994, before going on to star in other movies like "Trading Mom" and "Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain."

Although her childhood acting career was successful, and she'd managed to maintain it into adulthood, eventually taking on roles like Vivan Kent in Netflix's "Inventing Anna," Chlumsky told the Independent in 2022 that being a child star was inherently traumatizing. Lacking any agency of her own as a child, the "Veep" alum said: "It was only as an adult that I discovered any sense of reliability or security. When I was a child those did not exist, because I was for sale." She also didn't feel equipped to deal with the pressures of public and professional life at such a young age.

Chlumsky told Elle that she resonated with Mara Wilson's experience as a child star. After reading the "Matilda" star's 2021 essay "The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls" in The New York Times, she finally felt seen. "There were [words] ripped, exactly, from my mouth. Like the words that she would tell people to get them to go away? Same words as mine," she admitted.

Macaulay Culkin was unprepared for fame at such a young age

Like his "My Girl" co-star, Macaulay Culkin was catapulted into fame in the early '90s. His breakout role came in 1990, after five years of acting, when he starred in the universally beloved Christmas comedy "Home Alone." He followed this up with "My Girl," "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," and "The Nutcracker." By the time Macaulay starred in 1994 comedy "Richie Ritch," he was one of the most famous actors in the world. But off screen, his life was imploding, and he didn't want to be acting. 

"My father and my mother finally called it quits, which was one of the best things that ever happened. I was able to actually walk away from the business," Macaulay later explained on the "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast. "I'd been wanting to take a break for a while and eventually, I just was like, 'I'm done, I'm done guys. I hope you all made your money because there's no more coming from me.'"

He'd had enough of the fame at 14. Instances where Macaulay and his family were gawked at in public — and in one case, followed home by a taxi driver — were understandably huge downsides to his public status, and it was something he wasn't prepared for, as younger brother Kieran Culkin revealed to Esquire in March 2023. "He was little and having to try to accept that level of fame as reality," the "Succession" star added. "Even at that time, as a kid, I remember thinking, 'That sucks for him.'"

Every aspect of Raven-Symoné's life was dictated to her

Raven-Symoné was an award-winning actor before she was 10 years old. She took home a Young Artist award for playing Olivia Kendall in "The Cosby Show" in 1991, and she was nominated for several more. The '90s proved to be a fruitful decade for the young star, who went on to star in movies like "The Little Rascals" and "Dr. Doolittle." She also appeared in an episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" before she starred in four seasons of the sitcom "Hanging with Mr. Cooper." Symoné's acting career continued into the 2000s, as she landed the starring role of Raven Baxter in Disney Channel sitcom "That's So Raven" at around the age of 16.

However, this compounded the problems Symoné experienced growing up in front of the camera. Her weight was observed from a young age, and she later recalled a body shaming incident when she was seven years old and not allowed to eat a bagel from craft services. But that wasn't the only part of her life and career that was being dictated to her. 

In 2022, Symoné admitted to Insider that there were people who controlled her identity and how she presented herself (including the fact that she's gay) to the world, and she quite understandably hated it. It took years for her to feel comfortable in her own body. "Now that I'm feeling empowered by the new generation of just being yourself on camera ... I'm able to present how I feel as Raven-Symoné, the entertainer," she said.