They see dead people — or worse. Few horror movie tropes are scarier than creepy children, but many of those child actors have grown up to become super successful adults.
Before she was a Golden Globe winner and talk show host, Drew Barrymore played the title role in 1984’s Firestarter, which was based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. The Charlie’s Angels actress starred as Charlie McGee, a little girl with pyrokinesis, a.k.a. the ability to control fire with her mind.
Barrymore was only 8 years old when she filmed the movie, but her acting made a huge impression on King, who still has a signed poster of the actress as Charlie. “It’s hung on my office wall for well over 40 years,” the Carrie author said during a March 2021 episode of The Drew Barrymore Show. “Not only were you a great actress [when] very, very young, you were a good person, and you’re still a good person.”
The Wildflower author returned to the horror genre as an adult in 1996’s Scream, but she’s actually not a fan of scary movies despite her “scream queen” reputation. “Funny enough, contrary to probably popular belief, I am terrified of scary movies and do not watch them,” she said during an October 2020 episode of her talk show.
Like Barrymore, Haley Joel Osment became a huge star after appearing in a horror movie as a kid. The California native starred in 1999’s The Sixth Sense as Cole Sear, a young boy who could see dead people. Osment earned an Oscar nomination for his work, becoming the second-youngest person to earn a nod in a supporting role.
Director M. Night Shyamalan auditioned tons of kids for the role of Cole, but Osment was the first actor that blew him away. “It was like I had never heard the dialogue before,” the filmmaker told The New Yorker in October 2014. “He finished the scene and he was crying and I was crying. I could not believe it. I said, ‘Oh, my God. Who are you?’”
Unlike many child stars, Osment kept acting in film and TV after The Sixth Sense, though he admitted that he sometimes chose roles because he thought they would help him shed the image of Cole.
“I’m most well known for being a good kid and the moral center of the movie,” he explained to The New Yorker in the same interview. “It’s telling that most of my current roles are dark and nasty. It’s not about running away from what I did as a kid, but it’s a way to keep things fresh and challenging.”
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Keep scrolling to see what some of the most famous frightening kids have been doing since they haunted movie screens.