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Child Actors Who Didn't Return For The Sequel

One of the many problems filmmakers face when taking on a sequel to a successful movie is bringing back the characters audiences loved the first, or even second or third, times around. Crafting a story worthy of those characters that isn't necessarily a retread of what audiences have seen before can be challenging enough. When you factor in the business side of entertainment, bringing old favorites back can sometimes seem impossible.

Whether due to scheduling conflicts, creative differences, or financial considerations, actors don't always return to show us the next chapter in their characters' lives. That can be just as true for child actors as it is for incredibly famous and wealthy adults. Although with young actors, unlike their more seasoned counterparts, ego isn't usually the cause of their absence from a sequel.

More often than not, there's a multitude of reasons for a child actor not to return. For some, the acting business just wasn't their thing, while others had their roles taken away. We're going to take a look at young stars who didn't reprise their roles, and find out why.

Edward Furlong

In 1991, filmmaker James Cameron unleashed "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," the action-packed follow-up to his comparatively low-budget '80s sci-fi thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the heart of the blockbuster sequel was the father-son relationship between a young John Connor and Schwarzenegger's robotic killing machine from the future. Connor, played by a young Edward Furlong in his first film role, was destined to lead a revolution against Skynet in the future. It only made sense that Furlong would return to reprise the iconic role in subsequent sequels.

However, 12 years later, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" was released with actor Nick Stahl taking the reins as humanity's savior. Despite being the appropriate age for the role, Furlong was replaced when production began. While on stage at Days of the Dead in January of 2019, he discussed the recasting.

"I was part of the project," Furlong said when responding to an audience member's question regarding his absence from "T3." His struggles with substance abuse hindered him from participating in the much-anticipated sequel. "To celebrate, it was like 'Yeah! Let's go out and party!'" Sadly, the actor ended up overdosing, ensuring the production would not honor his contract.

"T2" would not be the last time audiences got to see Furlong as Connor. The release of "Terminator: Dark Fate" in 2019 saw his brief return as the character he originated in his 14-year-old form, courtesy of de-aging technology.

Anthony Michael Hall & Dana Barron

"National Lampoon's Vacation" was released in 1983, introducing the world to the Griswolds. Their hilarious misadventures traveling across the country to reach an amusement park spawned three sequels, a spinoff, and a reboot/sequel in 2015. Although Mr. and Mrs. Griswold were portrayed by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo for each film, different actors were brought in to play their bickering children Rusty and Audrey in each outing.

The first pair of Griswold children were portrayed by Dana Barron (in her second role) and a pre-Brat Pack Anthony Michael Hall. In a conversation with Retro LadyLand in 2014, Barron gave her explanation for not returning as Audrey. "Anthony Michael Hall was doing very, very well in different films at the time, he was about to film 'Weird Science' and because he was contracted to do that... he said no, which made me so sad because I basically had my bags packed, waiting by the door.

When Amy Heckerling, the director attached to the sequel at the time, learned that Hall wouldn't be coming back, she suggested recasting Audrey as well. Barron Continued, "So I was waiting and waiting and waiting by the phone and they went on and filmed without me."

Barron did eventually get to come back as Audrey (being the only actress to do so) in the 2003 direct-to-video sequel "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2."

Sage Stallone

The saga of Italian boxer Rocky Balboa began in 1976 with the release of "Rocky," written by its star, Sylvester Stallone. The story of a nobody getting his chance to take on the biggest name in boxing was such a colossal success that the series is still going strong today. By "Rocky V," it had already been established that Rocky and his wife Adrian had a son, Robert Balboa Jr. Ian Fried and Rocky Krakoff appeared as Rocky Jr. in "Rocky III" and "Rocky IV," but it was the inclusion of Sage Stallone in the fifth film that is the most notable, as he was the actual son of Sylvester Stallone.

16 years after the film's release, the Italian Stallion returned in "Rocky Balboa." Although he was the right age to return as Robert, Sage Stallone declined to participate in the 2006 film. Instead, Milo Ventimigila became the fourth actor to play Rocky's son. According to a piece written for Yahoo! Entertainment following the younger Stallone's untimely death in 2012, it had been reported that Sage declined the role to focus on his career behind the scenes. In 2006, the same year "Rocky Balboa" was released, Sage directed the award-winning short film "Vic."

Danielle Harris

Following the ill-received "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," the Halloween series, which began in 1978 with the John Carpenter classic, was rejuvenated with "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers." This time, the story focused on Jamie Lloyd, who lives with the Carruthers family after the death of her mother, Laurie Strode.

Lloyd, portrayed by child actor Danielle Harris, returned the following year for "Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers" as well. When the sixth film, "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers," was released in 1995, Michael's niece was played by actress J. C. Brandy.

Harris planned on playing Jamie again, but being 17 prevented the producers from hiring her. In an interview, Harris explains the producers wanted someone 18, freeing the production team to work more hours. If she wanted the role, she was going to have to get emancipated. She went through the complicated legal process, only to discover that the movie was turning into something she didn't agree with.

A meeting with producers about the new script raised doubts about the project in her mind. "I remember leaving, thinking, 'Oh, these people don't know Halloween,'" Harris said. "So I'm pregnant with my uncle's baby? Like, I just didn't understand what had shifted." She was also told that her character wasn't important enough to pay her the salary she felt she deserved after being the lead of the previous two films and the hurdles she went through to make her casting happen. At that point, she stepped away.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio has been incredibly famous for a very long time. In 1997, he became a superstar following the release of "Titanic." He has worked steadily over the years, even winning an Oscar for his performance in 2015's "The Revenant." As with many actors, one of his very first credits was a horror movie. In this case, the young actor made his feature film debut in 1991's "Critters 3," the third installment of the cult horror/sci-fi series from New Line Cinema.

DiCaprio played the stepson of the greedy landlord of a seedy apartment building where the protagonists of the film reside. His inclusion in the film is noteworthy simply for the incredible career he had in the following years. Just three years later, he received his first Academy Award nomination for his role as Arnie in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." Less than a year after the release of "Critters 3," we got "Critters 4." This time, without DiCaprio.

Unlike several of the actors on this list, his lack of involvement doesn't appear to have anything to do with a desire to recast. The story simply didn't allow for the inclusion of "Critters 3" legacy characters. Instead of telling an Earth-bound story, the narrative jumped ahead to 2045 and dealt with the crew of a salvage ship in space. The most notable casting in this sequel? Academy Award Nominee Angela Bassett played the character Fran.

Macaulay Culkin

Not only were the John Hughes-scripted, Chris Columbus-directed "Home Alone" movies gigantic hits at the box office, but the first film, released in 1990, also launched its 10-year-old lead into megastardom. The little troublemaker with a heart of gold and a penchant for cartoonish booby traps made Macaulay Culkin so famous that he started popping up everywhere in music videos, TV shows, and an onslaught of movies.

The staggering success of both "Home Alone" and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" almost necessitated a third film go into production. So, in 1997, we got "Home Alone 3." Only this time, the spunky blonde kid defending his home from criminals was not played by Culkin, but by Alex D. Linz. As with a few other actors on this list, the reason for Culkin not returning was that he had somewhat retired from acting in 1994.

An article for Vanity Fair, covering a recent appearance on "Ellen," pointed out that the mid-'90s were a particularly difficult time in Culkin's personal life and he likely wanted to step away from the limelight for a little while. Since then, he has been much more selective about the parts he plays.

Kimberly J. Brown

In 1998, the Disney Channel premiered a film that would spawn a franchise of spooky made-for-TV movies titled "Halloweentown." The film starred Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds as a magical grandmother, and resident of the eponymous Halloweentown, visiting her family on Halloween. The role of her eldest grandchild, Marnie, was played by actress Kimberly J. Brown. In many ways, Marnie served as the center of the film, which was so successful that three sequels were produced. Although the majority of the cast, including Reynolds, returned for each installment, Brown was not asked back for the fourth and final entry, "Return to Halloweentown."

This time around, Marnie was played by Sara Paxton. The reason for the change is still vague, as Brown herself addressed when responding to fan questions on her YouTube channel. While many assumed she was unavailable the return as Marnie, Brown clarifies this was not the case. "I was available and ready to do it," she said. "But Disney decided to go in a different direction and recast the role."

Brown's exclusion from the final film riled fans for years, as evidenced by the barrage of tweets shared in this Moviefone piece.

Barret Oliver

Oliver was our original gateway to the magical world of Fantasia in "The Neverending Story," based on the novel by Michael Ende and directed by Wolfgang Peterson. It was his sympathetic portrayal of the lonely, bullied bookworm Bastian Bux that reminded generations of dreamers how important it is to always engage your imagination and keep it alive. When the sequel "The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter" was released in 1990, there were a number of casting changes, including that of main protagonist Bastian.

'90s heartthrob Jonathan Brandis (14 at the time) was cast as Bastian for the follow-up. As with Macaulay Culkin, it appears as though Oliver did not return because he left acting behind in 1989, two years prior to the release of "The Next Chapter." Since then, the former child actor has devoted his life to photography, specializing in 19th-century techniques. In an interview with Photoculture in 2019, he discussed his career and all the work he puts into his art.

Corey Feldman

Few young actors in the 1980s were as charismatic as Corey Feldman. This is demonstrated by the sheer mountain of credits he built over the decade. Feldman was cast in "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter," the fourth film in the slasher series, as Tommy Jarvis, a monster-obsessed youth with a love for making masks. This serves him well during the final confrontation with the monolithic killer Jason Voorhees, as he uses his talent for makeup to transform himself into Jason as a child, confusing the madman long enough to take him down. The film's final moment hints at more to come for Tommy.

Although the character would face off with Jason twice more, Feldman would only play him in a brief cameo for "Friday the 13th: A New Beginning." During an interview with fridaythe13thfranchise.com in 2011, he talked about the experience of working on the fourth film and his commitment to "The Goonies" preventing him from starring in "A New Beginning."

"Well, they originally wrote the fifth film for me to star in, but I couldn't do it due to the fact that I was working 6 days a week on 'Goonies.'" By the time "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" was made, the character of Tommy Jarvis had aged up, likely making it difficult to bring Feldman back.

Recently, Feldman expressed interest in returning to take on Jason one last time.

A. Michael Baldwin

The "Phantasm" series spans five films over four decades. The surreal horror/sci-fi film franchise follows Mike Pearson, a boy grieving the loss of his parents; the ice cream man/musician Reggie Bannister; and their decades-long battle against a strange, malevolent being known only as the Tall Man.

A. Michael Baldwin played Mike in the first film way back in 1979. He's still the actor most closely associated with the role, as he continued to play Mike in "Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead," "Phantasm IV: Oblivion," and "Phantasm: Ravager." But when the time came to produce the first sequel to the original, most of the parties involved came back, except for Baldwin. In "Phantasm II," the older Mike was played by James LeGros.

Entertainment Weekly reported that, in an interview with their Sirius XM show Entertainment Weirdly, creator Don Coscarelli explained that the choice to replace Baldwin was not his, but the studio's. "The studio would not allow Michael Baldwin to have the role," the filmmaker said.

Interestingly, one of the many actors considered for the role was a young Brad Pitt, an audition Coscarelli said he didn't remember until discovering the audition on a video cassette years later. While it might've been interesting to see a Pitt-led "Phantasm" sequel, no one can argue that A. Michael Baldwin will always remain the true Mike Pearson.

Carrie Henn

The sequel to Ridley Scott's classic 1979 haunted house in space film "Alien" jumped forward even further in time, dropping Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley character into a world where she has no family and the aliens that killed her crew have now infested a human colony on the moon from the original film. Ripley joins space marines to investigate what happened. It's here that she meets Newt, a human girl hiding from the aliens. Their bond is what gives "Aliens" its heart.

Newt was played by 10-year-old newcomer Carrie Henn. She had never acted before, and it appeared as though she had a bright future in acting ahead of her. However, the young actress decided to leave the business shortly after finishing the film, deciding instead to focus on just being a kid. In 2019, she told AVP Galaxy about why she made her decision.

Her father had been stationed in England (where "Aliens" was shot) but was transferred to California. Now that she lived in the States again, she briefly considered going back to acting, but decided against it, saying, "I wanted to be a normal child, and I'd lived in England since I was about two... So it was quite a culture shock coming back to the States and especially coming back to California."

Being in a well-known film and speaking with an accent made adjusting difficult, but she persevered and went on to accomplish her lifelong goal of teaching, something she continues to do to this day.

Taylor Lautner

Movie audiences everywhere met Jacob Black in 2008's mega-smash hit "Twilight." At the time, he was Bella Swan's buddy from back in the day. One year later, however, Jacob got buff, gained the ability to transform into a wolf, and started hanging around without a shirt more often. For many film-goers, this was their introduction to actor Taylor Lautner, who would go on to star in subsequent Twilight films and 2011's "Abduction."

Before becoming a leading man, though, he was the co-lead of a wild superhero film for young people called "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D" in 2005. A whole generation of kids knew him as the temperamental boy raised by sharks following the death of his father. While the film was not a giant success, it did get a spinoff in the 2020 Netflix film "We Can Be Heroes."

The non-sequel features a brief appearance from Sharkboy and Lavagirl, but only Lavagirl's original actor, Taylor Dooley, returned. Sharkboy was instead played by stuntman Jeff Dashnaw, who had been a frequent collaborator with writer-director Robert Rodriguez. When speaking to Yahoo! Entertainment, Rodriguez said there was no reason to bring Lautner back as Sharkboy.

"I wouldn't see Sharkboy's face because I wanted him to be more like Batman," Rodriguez explained. "There wasn't enough to bring Taylor Lautner on, he's such a big star now. And for him to not have any dialogue and have his face covered, fans would be in an uproar."

Danny Lloyd

Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's novel "The Shining" was released in 1980, and it didn't exactly set the world on fire right away. One of the film's major critics was Stephen King, who disagreed with Kubrick's interpretation of his novel. The film has only grown in esteem over the decades, now largely considered a masterpiece.

King released a sequel, "Doctor Sleep," in 2013. The novel revisits an adult Danny Torrence struggling with alcoholism and battling hermetic vampires feeding on gifted children. In 2019, the sequel was adapted by director Mike Flanagan, who envisioned it both as an adaptation of King's novel and as a direct sequel to the Kubrick film. While 5-year-old Danny Lloyd played Danny Torrence in 1980, he only returned for a brief cameo as an unrelated character at a baseball game in "Doctor Sleep." Ewan McGregor was selected to play the adult Danny in the sequel. The reason for this was very simple: Danny Lloyd gave up acting years ago.

Talking to The Guardian, Lloyd discussed his life as a biology professor in Kentucky, and his decision to leave acting. After years of auditioning, Lloyd decided to call it quits. He wasn't frustrated, just bored. "I wouldn't say it was upsetting," he said. "But as I got a little bit older, it kind of got boring."

Lloyd is a father of four with no regrets about his decision. "At the end of the day, it's not a huge deal... I still have to grade the tests at school, get the kids to bed. All the regular stuff."