Child actor

From Academic Kids

The term child actor is generally applied to a child acting in motion pictures or television, but also to an adult who began his or her acting career as a child; to avoid confusion the latter is also called a former child actor.

Due to child labor laws, children acting in films are restricted to doing limited hours of work per day. The things they can do on-screen are also limited, and often body doubles are used as children can not film certain scenes (for example, overtly sexual scenes). Despite this, many children play disturbed characters and have to repeat terrible lines; Dakota Fanning, at the age of 9, had lines about how her character's mother had committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the bath. In his autobiography, Please Don't Shoot My Dog, published in 1981, Jackie Cooper told of director Norman Taurog's threat to shoot young Jackie's dog if he couldn't cry in the 1931 film Skippy.

Child actors must also attend school; they usually have a private tutor who teaches them on the film set. Often they are home-schooled when they are not filming, leading to criticism that they do not have 'normal' childhoods.

Using children in motion pictures has been widely criticised as exploitation, particularly as many children never get to see the money they earn. Jackie Coogan became a millionaire while still a child, but as all his money was used by his parents, Acts have been passed since that make sure trust funds are set up for the children and they get at least 15% of what they earned. However, many child actors still pay for their own travel, presents, clothes and education.

The parents of child actors are also often criticised for allowing their children to work. Stage mothers (or stage fathers) is a term that applies to those who force their children to act. Such parents are particularly keen for their child to receive fame and success and will do almost anything to make sure this happens. Yet not all parents are stage parents; often the children themselves are keen on acting from a very early age and the parents are merely allowing the children to do their favourite hobby.

Closely associated is teen actor, an actor who reached popularity as a teenager.

Examples

(movies they appeared in are mentioned only if they were still a child):

For estimating the age at the time of shooting, note that above the years of release are given.

The term "child actor" carries some stigma as child actors sometimes have troubled adult lives, due in part to their unusual upbringings. A well-known example of this is the child cast of the 1980s sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. Child members of that cast grew into adults who had several run-ins with the law, and one member died of a drug overdose.

On the other hand, there are child actors who had successful careers (both acting and non-acting) in adulthood like Roddy McDowall, Tommy Rettig, Bill Mumy and Jodie Foster.

See also

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