Making it to the big screen is never an easy task. With thousands of would-be actors and actresses being turned down for potential roles they thought they could earn, many have found themselves giving up on the Hollywood dream for a career elsewhere. But for those who made it to stardom, many have crumbled on and off camera. From drugs to arrests to high profile relationships, being an adult celebrity can take its toll (if not properly mitigated). It’s even a lot worse for child actors. Even at a young age, negative influences can quickly grasp them and pull them down under. While some were fortunate enough to recover, others were not.
Here are 15 of the most promising child actors who left the world at a very young age:
1. River Phoenix
River, a child star who starred in Explorers and Stand By Me, passed away at 23 years of age in 1993. He was set to perform on stage with a close friend when he overdosed on Speedball (a mix of morphine and cocaine). He collapsed and died shortly after.
2. Heather O’Rourke
Heather shot to stardrom as Carol Anne Freeling in the 1982 classic horror film Poltergeist. In 1988, she became ill as a result of a misdiagnosis by doctors. She died from septic shock complications and cardiac arrest. She was only 12 years of age.
3. Corey Haim
Corey, known for her role in The Lost Boys, passed away in 2010 at just 38 years old. His death was a result of a drug-induced pneumonia triggered by the 550-plus pills he took one month before his death.
4. Gary Coleman
Gary, known his role of Diff’rent Strokes for playing Arnold Jackson, died from a brain hemorrhage in 2010. This came from a seizure incident which led to him fall from a flight stairs in his home. He fell into a coma and died days after. He was only 42 years old.
5. Bridgette Andersen
Bridgette was known for taking an important role in the 1982 TV comedy series Savannah Smiles. Over the years, she was battling with heroin addiction. She died at just 21 years of age in 1997.
6. Dana Hill
Dana became a star after holding a number of roles in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and Fallen Angel. At 10 years old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes which later led to a diabetic coma in 1996. On that same year, she died from a paralytic stroke.
7. Skye McCole Bartusiak
Skye played the youngest daughter of Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot. She was found unconscious in her apartment in 2014 and couldn’t be revived. Medical examiners later found out her death was a result of a lethal combination of drugs she took.
8. Ashleigh Aston Moore
Ashleigh was widely known for taking part in the 1995 film Now and Then where she played the role of Chrissy. In December of 2007, she was found dead in Richmond, Canada from a heroin overdose. She was only 26 years old.
9. Matthew Garber
Matthew shot to fame playing Michael Banks in Mary Poppins at 8 years old. He contracted Hepatitis on his trip to India in 1976 and when returned to his native country in England, the disease had already spread to his pancreas. He died a year later. He was 21 years old.
10. J. Madison Wright Morris
J. Madison rose to fame for taking roles in Grace Under Fire and Shiloh. At the age of 15, she received her first heart transplant after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. In 2006, she suffered a fatal attack after her honeymoon in Hawaii. She was 21 years old.
11. Michael Cuccione
Michael was known for his role in the TV series 2ge+her. After surviving Hodgkin’s Disease at a young age, he dealt with respiratory problems over the years. In 2000, he died of respiratory failure stemming from pneumonia. He was only 16 years old.
12. Scotty Beckett
Scotty, widely known for his role in the film Our Gang, passed away when he was 38 years old. He went through years of battling drugs and in 1968, he lost the battle. He suffered from overdosing on alcohol and barbituates
13. Sammi Kane Kraft
Sammi is an actress, recording artist, and baseball player know her prominent role in the remake of Bad News Bears. He suffered injuries after the car she was in was rear-ended by a trailer. She died in California hospital shortly after. She was 20 years of age.
14. Bobby Driscoll
Bobby was widely seen in Walt Disney films including in Treasure Island and Song of the South. As his career started to wind down, he became addicted to heroin. In 1968, his was found dead in a New York tenement due to heart failure. He was 31 years old.
15. Dorothy Dell
Dorothy is an actress who played film roles in Little Miss Marker and The Wharf Angel. Widely known for taking part in a number of movies, her life was cut short after a fatal vehicle accident on a highway that killed her instantly. She was 19 years at that time.
Like many hopefuls who want to be in the spotlight, being an actor can be a good and a bad thing. While many adult actors can turn their lives around from negative influences through determination and support, it’s a different playing field for child actors. If a child makes one wrong move, it could dictate a downward spiral for their careers and lives. Sometimes recovering from a single traumatic event is close to impossible. Children are a lot more vulnerable in the entertainment industry than many would think. Aside from heavily depending on their adult figures for guidance, they’re also curious beings who can’t separate the good from the bad. It’s one of the main reasons that contributed to their horrible and unpredictable deaths.