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9 Show Stealing Performances By A Child Actor

9 Show Stealing Performances By A Child Actor - Portable Staging | Modular Stages | Unistage Ltd

17Oct, 2016

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9 Show Stealing Performances By A Child Actor

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With so many children finding their feet on a Unistage stage, we thought it would be nice to take a look back and remember all the amazing performances by a child on the grand stage of international film.

There are certain performances from a previously unknown child actor so profound and identifiable that they completely upstaged their experienced adult counterparts, often including highly established and respected actors and actresses.

Whether it was due to a unique charm, a cheekiness that an adult actor simply wouldn’t get away with, an iconic series of scenes or a profound innocence that can only be observed in our child years, these young actors left us walking out of the cinema with only admiration for their performance in mind.

(Note: As this piece is all about celebrating children, we’re restricting performances to films rated 12 and under.)

  • Macaulay Culkin – Home Alone

Perhaps the most often quoted child performance of all time, Culkin’s charming and hilarious rendition of the thief-beating Kevin McAlister in this Christmas film classic still stands the test of time to this date as one of the all-time most beloved film performances.

  • Tatum O’ Neal – Paper Moon

Still to this date the youngest person to ever win an oscar, Tatum O’Neal won Best Supporting Actress for her role as the androgynous con-girl Addie in the 1973 cult classic Paper Moon.

  • Jack Wild – Oliver!

Whilst it was Mark Lester’s performance as Oliver that tends to be remembered for the infamous “Please sir, can I have some more?” line, Jack Wild’s performance as loveable crook Fagin’s second-in-command The Artful Dodger is the one which truly stands out. With a charismatic and devilish gleam in his eye and yet a good heart, Wild continued to act throughout his life, across the 70s, 80s and 90s before passing away tragically from mouth cancer in 2005.

  • Emma Watson – Harry Potter Series

Of all the three mega-stars that were born from the Harry Potter series, Emma Watson is (probably) the one who has garnered the most success. Having gradually won the hearts of the millions of the Potter fans worldwide across the 8 films, Watson has helped the character of Hermione become a popular, feminist icon.

  • Christian Bale – Empire Of The Sun

Renowned A-list actor Christian Bale has been apart of both massive huge franchises and critically acclaimed films and the success of his career was foreshadowed very early on with his deep, focused and profound performance in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 war drama Empire of the Sun. He was 13 at the time.

  • Abigail Breslin – Little Miss Sunshine

Abigail Beslin’s performance as the loveable dance enthusiast Olive in the quirky 2006 comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine opened up the world for her. Having since starred in an ever-growing list of high-profile films including 2009’s duplex of My Sister’s Keeper and the hilarious Zombieland, Abigail’s career continues to go from strength-to-strength and it was signed, sealed and delivered by her breakthrough performance here.

  • Haley Joel Osment – The Sixth Sense

It may have well been the first scene you thought of when questioned with the idea of famous child actors! The famous scene in which Osment utters the singular line ‘I see dead people!” was so profound from the 1999 thriller The Sixth Sense that he has struggled since to overcome the stigma, in spite of an excellent body of work across film, TV and video games. A profound moment indeed.

  • Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Wallis made a multitude of headlines in 2012 with the release of the Louisiana drama Beasts Of The Southern Wild when she became the youngest ever actress to be nominated for the leading actress Academy Award, losing out only to Jennifer Lawrence’s incredible performance in Silver Lining’s Playbook. Whilst having to portray childhood innocence in the midst of a harsh social and geographical environment – Wallis was lauded with praise for bringing genuine credibility to a difficult role.

  • Dakota Fanning – I Am Sam

Few other actresses in history have managed to touch the emotional depth of Dakota Fanning and have the success she did as a child actress. Her amazing ability to portray a sense of tortured wisdom well beyond her years, coupled with a selection of highly emotional roles resulted in a career as a child actress you could argue is her peek. In I Am Sam, a 7-year old Dakota portrayed the young daughter of a man with a learning disability who is fighting for the custody of his daughter and did so with incredible aplomb.


It takes something a little bit special to become a child actor or actress who can star in a role that will be remembered for life.

Children are cast in films and TV all the time but often are restricted to simplistic roles, with little dialogue. To star in a truly excellent child role is rare and it means only the hardest working and most passionate children are considered for the part.

However, the work of these actors proves dreams come true for those children who do put themselves out there. If your child or a child you know – perhaps a pupil at your school – has an interest in acting, let them!

Give them the platform and give them the stage to learn, to grow and to find their passion as an actress or actor.

Why not have a look? Modular stages don’t have to be expensive and can be stored easily in a small space, to use within Sports Halls, Assembly Halls and even outside for Sports Days at will.

Have a look to see how a stage can benefit your school and give the chance for a child to realise their potential now!


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