Being an actor isn’t certainly child’s play – well, even if we’re talking about child actors. Throughout the history of Hollywood, children have been called out to act mature, sexual or even harrowing in films, even sparking major controversies for placing underage actors in disturbing scenarios. Let’s have a look at some of the famous examples of mature film roles that were taken by underage child actors.
1. Dakota Fanning: Hounddog
The 2007 film, Hounddog made waves even before it saw the light. The film’s plot centers around Lewellen, a girl who lives and grows up in a broken family and it shocked the viewers when it went ahead to show something more than the tales of emotional abuse and neglect. In a scene, Fanning’s character is raped by an acquaintance, sending her on a spiral of illness and despair.
Even though it didn’t show any nudity, the scene wasn’t taken well by critics or viewers. The film failed at the box office, earning only $131,000 against the $3 million budget. Fanning later dismissed the negative criticism around the film, saying, ”
2. Natalie Portman: Leo, The Professional and Beautiful Girls
Natalie Portman debuted with Leo: The Professional as a 12-year old Mathilda whose situation gets worse when her abusive parents and little brother are murdered by a corrupt cop, played by Gary Oldman. She takes refuge with a neighbor who is a hitman. When she learns about his profession, she asks him to teach her everything so she could seek revenge.
Watching Portman sit and smoke, practicing how to kill, and even hold a gun to her head is pretty shocking when you realize that she was actually 12 at the time of its filming.
3. Macaulay Culkin: The Good Son
1993’s Good Son shows one of the evilest children in horror or thriller films. There’s no supernatural element that drives Culkin’s character – he is just bad. When the good-hearted Mark, played by Elijah Wood visits his extended family in winters, things turn dark once he meets his cousin Henry, played by Culkin.
It’s soon evident that Henry is mentally troubled and he starts acting out on his psychopathic tendencies, even trying to kill his sister, his cousin, Mark, and even his mother.
4. Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire)
This list would be incomplete if we don’t mention 1994’s Interview with the Vampire. In the Vampire Chronicles by Anna Rice, this girl is only five when she is turned into a vamp by Lestat. The producers couldn’t cast someone who was 5, so they cast the 11-year old Dunst in the film.
This role is extremely disturbing due to anger, violence, and almost insanity that she conveys, but also because Claudia embodies the idea of a very “old soul.” While Dunst did a great job playing the role, this character stood out for critics and audiences.
5. Chloë Grace Moretz: Kick-Ass, The Amityville Horror
Chloë Grace Moretz began her acting career at the age of just five, with the 2005 remake of Amityville Horror. She plays the role of Chelsea in the film, who befriends the ghost of a girl haunting their new place. She later revealed that her parents and the cast of the film kept her away from knowing what the film is actually about and she wasn’t allowed to watch it when it premiered.
A few years down the line and we see Moretz playing the role of ‘Hit-Girl’ in Kick Ass (2010) and its 2013 sequel, Kick-Ass 2. Throughout the two films, we see her as a nihilistic figure who is extremely hardened and likes to kill recklessly. The film met with some criticism for the swearing and violence in the film.