A blurred TV screen that someone is controlling with a small remote.
Unsplash | Glenn Carstens-Peters

Child Stars Who Gave Up Acting, And Child Stars Who Turned It All Into Something Big

Acting is a pretty difficult industry for adults, let alone kids. It's no wonder that many child stars end up backing away from the spotlight before their careers can get too advanced.

But there are also a lot of child stars who stick with it, and have since transitioned to more grown-up roles with ease. In this list, we'll look at some child actors who called it quits, and others who stayed in the spotlight.

Christian Bale.

Christian Bale.
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Bale's illustrious acting career started in the 80s, when he landed a role in the TV film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. He was also in the 1992 Newsies film, among a number of other roles.

He's since taken on many different roles.

These days, Bale is probably most remembered for his portrayal of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, and Dicky Eklund in The Fighter (for which he won an Oscar).

Kay Panabaker.

Panabaker had a pretty good thing going with Disney for a while, appearing in the Disney Channel show Phil of the Future, and a few Disney Channel Original Movies like Read it and Weep and Life is Ruff.

But she quit acting altogether to pursue a new passion.

These days, Panabaker works as a zoologist. Funny enough, she now works as a zoologist for Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. I guess she's not quite done with the mouse.

Kaley Cuoco.

Kaley Cuoco was featured in a number of films during the '90s, when she was just a child. She landed her big break on the TV show, 8 Simple Rules, which sort of cemented her as a television star.

After that, she was on "The Big Bang Theory" for its entire run.

While she still appears in movies (most recently, 2022's The Man from Toronto), she's still on TV, acting in both The Flight Attendant and the animated show, Harley Quinn.

Mara Wilson.

Matilda
TriStar Pictures | TriStar Pictures

Mara Wilson was in a string of beloved family movies in the 90s, including Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and Matilda. She retired from acting in the 2000s to focus more on her writing.

And while she has penned a memoir, she's since done a bit of acting, too.

Wilson mainly works on web series, though she has lent her voice to shows like BoJack Horseman and Big Hero 6: The Series in the years since her retirement.

Kat Dennings.

Before she practically became a household name with her work in Two Broke Girls, Dennings got her acting start in 2000, appearing in Sex in the City. Later, she landed a leading role in the sitcom, Raising Dad.

Nowadays, she's still working pretty hard in the industry.

Dennings has a recurring role as Darcy Lewis in the MCU Thor movies, as well as in 2021's Wandavision. She's appeared in other shows too, like Big Mouth and Dollface.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
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The duo of child stars were a packaged deal in the '80s, '90s, and very early 2000s. They first appeared as Michelle Tanner in Full House, sharing the role between them. Then, came their empire of movies and shows.

They were in dozens of videos back in the day.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
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In fact, can you even call yourself a millennial if you haven't seen a Mary-Kate and Ashley video?

Since their retirement from acting, the twins ventured into the fashion industry, which seems to be where they plan on staying.

Kristen Stewart.

Kristen Stewart shouting do something
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Kristen Stewart's fist acting role was in the Disney Channel movie, The Thirteenth Year, which was a nonspeaking part. She then appeared in other films, including Panic Room and Cold Creek Manor, before appearing as Bella Swan in the Twilight saga.

Needless to say, "Twilight" kind of put her on the map.

Kristen Stewart.
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In fact, a decade after the final Twilight installment was released, people still associate her with the franchise. But today, she's also known for more serious roles, including her Oscar-nominated role in the 2021 film, Spencer.

Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes
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Bynes was definitely a teen icon in the 2000s, going from having her own show (The Amanda Show), to starring in a number of teen movies like Big Fat Liar, What a Girl Wants, She's the Man, and Easy A.

She retired from acting after "Easy A," though.

Amanda Bynes
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And from there, she suffered a number of drug and mental health related problems. Though she's stated in the past she has no intention of returning to acting, she also said she may return to television one day.

Brie Larson.

Larson got her first role in a comedy skit on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1998, and then appeared in Raising Dad during its run. She appeared in a number of supporting roles for teen films, too.

Though, she'll probably be best remembered for her performance in "Room."

That performance cinched her the Academy Award for Best Actress. And of course now, she's playing the titular Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, among many other projects.

Jennette McCurdy.

Best known for playing Sam on iCarly and Sam and Cat, McCurdy has stepped away from acting and opened up about the pressure she felt to be a child star from her abusive mother.

She's since taken to other ventures, including writing and singing.

Earlier this month, her memoir, I'm Glad My Mom Died was released, which details the abuse she faced as a result of her mother, including the eating disorder she developed in her youth.