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Former Child Actors Who Ended Up Being Super Rich

The world of childhood celebrity is a strange one. Being exposed to that much power and fame at an early age tends to warp a person — sometimes with tragic results. Little ones struggle to cope with that level of prestige, visibility, and wealth, though in their defense, a whole lot of adults can't handle it either. However, sometimes the precocious, adorable child actor who captures the world's heart on a smash-hit TV show or beloved movie moves successfully on to bigger and better things. Those pint-sized stars go on to a life of achievement, awards, multifaceted projects, and, oftentimes, a whole lot of money.

This kiddie-star-to-adult-actor pipeline is so established, in fact, that the modern public barely notices it as a distinct part of the celebrity landscape. An enormous number of current stars got their start in movies and television as child performers: Miley Cyrus might be a mainstream pop star now, but it wasn't too long ago that she was Hannah Montana. With an increasing number of young actors gaining recognition in major films and television — think the kids from Stranger Things – it seems likely that there will be plenty more moving up in the world in the next few years.

We're here to take a look at the child stars who have wound up as success stories. Most have continued to work mainly as actors, but they've often found success in other areas as well. Regardless, they're raking it in as adults.

Kaley Cuoco

You may only be aware of Kaley Cuoco from her work on the wildly popular series The Big Bang Theory, but she's been kicking around Hollywood since she was just seven years old. Her first credited appearance came in the TV movie Quicksand: No Escape, and she moved quickly on to other TV and film projects in the following years. Her true breakout came as Bridget on 8 Simple Rules, but it was certainly The Big Bang Theory that made her a household name. 

You don't stay on one of TV's most-watched shows for over a decade and not end up making some serious cash along the way. Cuoco reportedly started out making around $45,000 per episode for playing Penny on the nerd-centric sitcom. This number increased as the show gained a bigger and bigger audience. For the final two seasons of The Big Bang Theory, Cuoco and her costars were all making $1 million for every single episode. She and a few other cast members also own a percentage of the show's equity, generating even more income.

All told, Cuoco's net worth is estimated as being over $100 million. Considering her recent film and television projects have been spectacular successes (especially the animated Harley Quinn series and the highly-lauded The Flight Attendant), it seems the sky's the limit for Cuoco.

Sean Astin

Sean Astin has worn a whole lot of different hats in his acting career. He's probably best known for his turn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as Samwise Gamgee, Frodo's stalwart traveling companion and a hero in his own right. But you've probably seen him in plenty of other things since: Stranger Things, No Good Nick, Supergirl, and Charming the Hearts of Men are just a few of the many productions he's been involved in since leaving Middle-earth. You've also probably heard him: Astin does a ton of voice work. He plays Shazam in plenty of DC animated projects, the Narrator and many other roles in various Captain Underpants productions, Raphael on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, and a whole lot more besides.

Astin's star turn came when he was only 13 years old, when he appeared as Mikey in one of the most beloved kids' adventure films ever made: The Goonies. He went on to find plenty more success over the years, often reinventing himself for roles in projects like Rudy, 50 First Dates, 24 and many more. This versatility has paid off in a major way: Astin's net worth is reported to be around $30 million. Though that's nothing to sneeze at, we're betting that number will only continue to grow, as Astin keeps continuously busy with a wide variety of projects.

Hilary Duff

Of all the former child stars on this list, Hilary Duff is probably the only one who is still best known for her childhood role. This isn't actually surprising: Lizzie McGuire was one of the very first "star-making" Disney Channel series, paving the way for many other wildly successful child actors. Without Lizzie McGuire, there would be no Wizards of Waverly Place, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, or That's So RavenLizzie McGuire's success came from many different areas, including its thoughtful writing and shooting style, but it wouldn't have worked without Hilary Duff's strong and charming performance in the lead role.

Duff leveraged her success on the series into several other projects after it ended, including The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Agent Cody Banks, Cheaper by the Dozen, and A Cinderella Story. She has also been in talks for a revival of the beloved series, though it has hit a few speed bumps along the way. She has also had a lot of success in music, selling millions of albums and notching a few hit singles.

Duff has further branched out into a number of different fashion and lifestyle brands, and continues to be a force in movies and television. Some of her recent appearances include a starring role in the film The Haunting of Sharon Tate and a lead role on the series Younger. Her net worth is estimated to be around $25 million.

Reese Witherspoon

Unlike a lot of child stars, Reese Witherspoon didn't really have one massive role that broke her out of obscurity and into the public consciousness. Instead, she worked steadily, finding a lot of success as a teenager, then smartly and capably handling things until she rose through the ranks to genuine superstardom. Nowadays, you could pretty easily argue that Witherspoon is one of the most bankable stars in the world, and her estimated net worth of over $200 million reflects that. Recent years have seen her rise to especially prominent visibility, what with the success of her media company, Hello Sunshine, and its many projects.

Witherspoon's first major part came at the age of 14, when she landed the lead role of Dani Trant in The Man in the Moon. She started to make a name for herself in other film and television roles quickly afterwards, and really hit the big time in the late 1990s and early 2000s with roles in movies like Fear, Cruel Intentions, Election, and Legally Blonde. She continues to land major acting roles today, increasingly on television series like Little Fires Everywhere, Big Little Lies, and The Morning Show.

Much of Witherspoon's recent success stems from her work as a producer. She's often attached as a producer to many of the projects she appears in now, giving her an enviable amount of quality control. She seems poised to continue her domination over the entertainment industry in the coming years.

Ron Howard

Ron Howard is better known as a director than as an actor nowadays. This is for darn good reason: He's a heck of a director, having won an Academy Award for 2001's A Beautiful Mind and earned a nomination for 2008's Frost/Nixon. Besides those films, he's directed a number of commercially successful projects that have become modern classics. Howard is the man behind such hits as Apollo 13, Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and many others.

Howard got his start in Hollywood as a child actor. He started performing at just five years old, appearing in small roles on TV shows including I Spy and The Fugitive before landing Opie, his breakout role on The Andy Griffith Show. He appeared on all eight seasons of Andy Griffith, and continued gaining attention as he branched out into other roles after that show ended. Howard enjoyed further success as a teenager and young adult, starring in American Graffiti and playing Richie Cunningham on Happy Days.

Howard still appears sporadically on screen (and as a voice actor, such as his work on Arrested Development), but he has garnered most of his fame and fortune as a director and producer. His net worth is estimated to be around $200 million — a truly whopping number, but pretty much what you'd expect from a man as comfortable directing historical dramas as he is at the helm of Star Wars stories.

Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore's experiences as a child actor are tragic and infamous. She started acting at a very early age, appearing in a few minor roles in TV movies before landing a lead part in the massively successful E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. That movie, which became a generational milestone and a stone-cold classic, made Barrymore into an overnight sensation. This meant she landed a number of other major roles, but it also meant she fell into the deepest depths of Hollywood's party culture before she was even a teenager: The public would later learn she was introduced to drugs and alcohol at the age most kids are busy learning long division. Barrymore was only 14 years old when she wrote an autobiography entitled Little Girl Lost, which details her struggles with drug addiction and abuse.

Luckily, Barrymore was able to recover from her childhood trauma and has been able to find ever-increasing success in Hollywood. She has appeared in a number of films alongside Adam Sandler, headlined the Charlie's Angels films, and has made millions for a number of other acting roles in films like Ever After and Whip It. She also has her own production company, and has tried her hand at directing. Finally, Barrymore has also expanded into various entrepreneurial enterprises in the worlds of fashion, wine and makeup.

Though she's had her ups and downs, Barrymore seems to be doing quite well for herself. She has an estimated net worth of $125 million.

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster has been a major player in Hollywood for decades, so it's pretty easy to forget that she got started in acting at an extremely young age. Foster was only six years old when she got her first screen credits, appearing in several television productions and series including Julia and The Doris Day Show. She made an impression on director Martin Scorsese with her performance in his film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, which led to her big break a few years later in his legendary film Taxi Driver. She nabbed an Oscar nomination at just 14 years old for her performance as Iris in that landmark film — a hard feat to top, you might assume. But the indefatigable Foster climbed to an even higher level of stardom in 1991, when she starred as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.

At this particular peak of her fame, Foster negotiated massive salaries for appearing in blockbuster films. She made big bucks for her roles in movies including Maverick, Contact, Panic Room, The Brave One, and Flightplan. She still appears on screen occasionally, but seems to focus more on her work behind the camera at this stage in her career. Foster has directed a few films and episodes of several series, including Orange is the New Black, Tales from the Loop, Black Mirror, and House of Cards.

Foster is estimated to be worth over $100 million, and has the extremely impressive catalog to prove it.

Christian Bale

Christian Bale is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, having appeared in blockbusters in a wide variety of genres. His major breakthrough role came in his mid-20s, when he starred in the attention-grabbing thriller, American Psycho. However, Bale got bitten by the Hollywood bug long before his bloody turn as Patrick Bateman, Wall Street psychopath. Indeed, Bale had racked up a few minor roles (mostly on TV miniseries) before getting thrown into the deep end of the Hollywood pool as the star of Steven Spielberg's war drama, Empire of the Sun.

Bale continued to find plenty of success following Empire of the Sun: He starred as Laurie in Little Women, voiced Thomas in Disney's Pocahontas, played Arthur in the cult classic Velvet Goldmine, and played Howl in the English dub of the Studio Ghibli classic, Howl's Moving Castle. All in all, Bale was already a major name in Hollywood when he achieved true superstar status in Batman Begins. Since then, Bale has been a bonafide A-lister, appearing in blockbusters and arthouse films alike. He is known for undergoing massive transformations to look the part for his different roles, and has received dozens of award nominations (including an Oscar win for The Fighter) along the way.

Bale has negotiated some massive salaries over his career, and he's still going strong. He has a net worth estimated to be around $125 million, and continues to land roles in major franchises. That number will surely only go up.

Ariana Grande

It's easy to lose track of just how massive some pop stars truly are. As such, it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly how high Ariana Grande's perch at the very top of the fame ladder really is. At the age of 15, Grande hit Broadway in the musical 13, and dropped out of high school to focus on her music career. She reached a massive audience when she was cast in the Nickelodeon series Victorious, and continued to star in its spinoff, Sam & Cat. Though the success and acclaim she garnered as an actor is nothing to sneeze at, Grande's bread and butter has turned out to be pop music. As a singer, she has achieved stratospheric heights of popularity.

Grande has been making bank for a long while, reportedly earning somewhere between $20 and $30 million per year since she's really hit her stride. Even crazier is the fact that those numbers only continue to grow. She reportedly earned over $70 million from June 2019 through June 2020 — an absolutely astounding figure for someone in their mid-20s.

Grande's most recent albums and concert tours have attracted even bigger crowds and ticket sales. It will be interesting to see if she can continue to evolve as a performer, and to see how long she can keep her winning streak going. She's remarkably talented and seems pretty savvy, so it seems likely she won't be slowing down any time soon.

Neil Patrick Harris

It can be easy to forget just how prolific Neil Patrick Harris truly is. He's shown off a wide array of talents over the years, and has found success in both big and small productions. His biggest claims to fame come from television, though theater fans would be quick to tell you he's received major acclaim as a stage actor. You don't get to host the Tony Awards four times if you're anything but a Broadway superstar, after all.

Because Harris has reinvented himself a few times and enjoyed multiple major roles, it can be easy to forget how he started. He had already made a bit of a name for himself with a few film roles when he was cast in the starring role on Doogie Howser, M.D. as a 16-year-old. From there, Harris popped up in plenty of mid-range roles before hitting an even bigger level of stardom as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. He's been nominated for awards across the board, and even won a Tony for the titular role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Considering his charisma, talent and general likeability, Harris seems like he'll continue to pick and choose roles that interest him and will surely remain relevant for the foreseeable future. He has an estimated net worth of around $50 million. Nice work, Doogie.