How Famous Child Actors Found Stardom

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Many times it seems like young actors instantly hit the big time. However, oftentimes, Hollywood’s younger talents have been working for years before their “big breaks.” Back Stage explores the myth of discovery, and reveals when well-known young stars really started working.

Abigail Breslin (Age 16)

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Abigail Breslin, a native New Yorker, began working in commercials at age three. A few years later, she was cast in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” (2002.) In 2004, Breslin appeared with her brother, Spencer Breslin, and Kate Hudson in “Raising Helen.” Breslin is perhaps best known for her 2007 Oscar-nominated role as Olive Hoover in “Little Miss Sunshine.” Lead roles in “Nim’s Island” (2008) and “My Sister’s Keeper” (2009) soon followed. In 2011, Breslin appeared as Sara Jessica Parker’s teenage daughter in “New Year’s Eve.” Breslin recently wrapped “Ender’s Game” with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Asa Butterfield.

Asa Butterfield (Age 15)

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Asa Butterfield, a London native, appeared on the cover of a British novel at age five but didn’t establish himself a working actor until age eight, when he appeared in his breakout role as Bruno in “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” In 2010, Butterfield appeared as Maggie Gyllenhaal’s son in “Nanny McPhee Returns.” Most recently, Butterfield can be seen as Hugo Cabret, the title role in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning “Hugo.” Butterfield’s latest project, “Ender’s Game,” is scheduled for release in early 2013. Butterfield will play the title role, Ender Wiggin.

Dakota Fanning (Age 18)

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Born in Atlanta, Dakota Fanning began to work at age five, booking her first national Tide commercial and then appearing in an episode of “ER” at age six. As a young child, Fanning had guest appearances in many television shows including ten episodes of “Taken,” a television mini-series produced by Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Television. Fanning’s film career began in 2001 with a small role in “Tomcats.” Later in 2001, she hit the big time as Sean Penn’s daughter in “I Am Sam.” Fanning has worked with Reese Witherspoon in “Sweet Home Alabama,” Denzel Washington in “Man on Fire,” Tom Cruise in “War of the Worlds,” and Jennifer Hudson in “The Secret Life of Bees.” In 2010, she played Jane in “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and will reprise her role in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2,” scheduled for release this fall. Fanning is filming “The Getaway,” an action-thriller, with Ethan Hawke and Jon Voight.

Alexander Gould (Age 18)

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Raised in Los Angeles, Alexander Gould began acting at age two, booking a few commercials and appearing in a television episode of “Bailey Kipper’s P.O.V.” At seven, Gould began working on Disney/Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” voicing the title role and completed his work on the film at age nine. In 2006, Gould appeared as Twitch in the film “How to Eat Fried Worms.” Gould’s television appearances include “Freaks and Geeks,” “Malcom in the MIddle,” “Ally McBeal,” “Criminal Minds,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and “Pushing Daisies.” For the last seven years, Gould has played Shane Botwin, Mary-Louise Parker’s son in Showtime’s series, “Weeds.”

Selena Gomez (Age 19)

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Selena Gomez, best known for her role as Alex Russo on Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” began her career in Texas appearing as Gianna in “Barney & Friends” in 2001. Before “Wizards,” Gomez appeared in “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over,” guest-starred in “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” and booked a recurring role on “Hannah Montana.” In 2011, Gomez appeared in the film “Monte Carlo.” Gomez will voice Mavis in Sony Picture Animation’s “Hotel Transylvania,” scheduled for release this fall. Gomez’ will appear alongside Fanning in “The Getaway,” starring Ethan Hawke, which is scheduled for release late next year.

Josh Hutcherson (Age 19)

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“The Hunger Games” star moved from Kentucky to Los Angeles when he was nine years old and soon appeared on “ER” and in television movies, including “House Blend,” “Miracle Dogs,” and “Eddie’s Father.” In 2005, Hutcherson appeared in lead roles in the films “Little Manhattan” and “Zathura: A Space Adventure,” and in a supporting role as Robert Duvall’s son in “Kicking & Screaming.” In 2007, he held lead roles in “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Firehouse Dog.” In 2011, Hutcherson played Annette Bening and Julianne Moore’s son in “The Kids Are All Right.” This fall, Hutcherson will appear in “Red Dawn,” with Chris Hemsworth. He will also reprise his role as Peeta in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” in 2013.

Chloe Grace Moretz (Age 15)

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Chloe Grace Moretz’s career as a working actor began in 2004 in two episodes of “The Guardian.” Her breakthrough performance came in 2005 with a remake of “The Amityville Horror.” Other noteworthy films include “(500) Days of Summer” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” In 2011, Moretz appeared as Isabella opposite Asa Butterfield in “Hugo.” Most recently, Mortez can be seen in Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadow,” as Michelle Pfeiffer’s daughter. She is currently filming the remake of Stephen King’s “Carrie,” in which she plays the infamous Carrie White.

Keke Palmer (Age 18)

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In 2004, Keke Palmer first appeared in film as Queen Latifah’s niece, Gina, in “Barbershop 2: Back in Business.” The same year, Palmer appeared opposite William H. Macy in “The Wool Cap,” a critically acclaimed television movie. Palmer went on to star in “Akeelah and The Bee.” From 2008 to 2012, Palmer starred in Nickelodeon Network’s “True Jackson, VP.” Recently, Palmer appeared in a lead role in “Joyful Noise” and performed on the film’s soundtrack along with co-stars Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. In May, Palmer starred in Nickelodeon Network’s “Rags,” a television movie she co-produced along with Nick Cannon. Palmer will voice Peaches in “Ice Age: Continental Drift” scheduled for release in July.

AnnaSophia Robb (Age 18)

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Robb first appeared in television at age 11 on “Drake & Josh” as “Number One Fan” and quickly found success a year later starring in the 2005 film “Because of Winn-Dixie.” The same year, Robb played Violet Beauregarde in Johnny Depp’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” In 2007, Robb appeared with Josh Hutcherson in “Bridge to Terabithia.” In her most recent film, “Soul Surfer,” Robb plays Bethany Hamilton, a teenage surfer who resumes surfing after losing an arm in a shark attack. Robb has recently been cast to play Carrie Bradshaw in The CW prequel to “Sex and the City,” “The Carrie Diaries.” The series, scheduled to premiere in January 2013, follows Bradshaw during her senior year of high school.

Charlie Tahan (Age 14)

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Born and raised in New Jersey, Charlie Tahan first appeared on television in a 2008 episode of “Fringe” but found traction in a reoccurring role on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Tahan is best known for his roles opposite Will Smith in “I Am Legend” (2007) and Zac Efron in “Charlie St. Cloud” (2010). This fall, Tahan stars as the voice of Victor Frankenstein in Disney’s upcoming 3D stop motion animated film “Frankenweenie,” directed by Tim Burton.

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