Ever since he hung up his wizarding robes at Hogwarts, Daniel Radcliffe has forged a fascinating acting career in his early adulthood. The former child star grew up before our eyes as Harry Potter, but now that his commitments to the J.K. Rowling property are done, he's made it his mission, it seems, to do as many weird roles as possible in an effort to divorce himself from the character everyone associates him with. That's certainly understandable. He's not alone in that regard, either. Several child actors, in fact, have taken on weird roles as adults. While the results are — expectedly — not always consistent (or successful), they've certainly produced some intriguing performances over the past few years.
Here are some former child actors who've really gone out there and done weird stuff since their famous younger roles, starting with Daniel Radcliffe!
As mentioned earlier, Daniel Radcliffe has taken seemingly every professional opportunity made available to him to branch out, expand his horizons as an actor and help people divorce their image of him as Harry Potter from their minds. Since his final film in that franchise, Radcliffe has starred in movies like Horns, where a young man discovers that horns have grown out of his head, the excellent Swiss Army Man, where the former child star plays an animated corpse who can fart, get a boner, and talk, and, most recently, Guns Akimbo, where the actor plays a mild-mannered programmer who finds out that guns have been bolted into his hands. While not all of them have been successful, the ones that work stand out. Notably, in my view, Radcliffe's performance in Swiss Army Man is both beautiful and genuinely Oscar-worthy, despite what you might think from the description.
Similar to Daniel Radcliffe, Elijah Wood made all the money he could ever hope to make early in life with Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings movies. Therefore, following that fantasy trilogy, Wood has taken on several bizarre, intriguing projects. Notably, he starred in 2012's first-person Maniac remake, which found Wood playing a mannequin shop owner who stalks and kills women, Cooties, a horror-comedy about a band of school teachers fending for their lives when their students go rabid from a mysterious virus, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, where Wood plays a num-chunk loving weirdo, FX's Wilfred, where a suicidal man discovers that he's the only one who sees his dog as a talking man in a costume, and Come To Daddy, where a thirty-year-old man gets in a bloody turn of events when his father asks to visit him inside the woods.
Best known to many as Kevin McCallister in the Home Alone films, Macaulay Culkin was arguably the most famous child star of the '90s, particularly with My Girl, Richie Rich, The Pagemaster, and The Good Son. But as he got older, Culkin stepped away with the limelight. He branched out into adult content with indies like Party Monster, telling the story of drug-addled NYC party promoter Michael Alig, and Saved! After that, Culkin didn't act much, opting to perform with his comedy band, the Pizza Underground. When he acted, it was in odd web projects like DRYVRS, where he played a high-strung adult Kevin McCallister with martial issues, lingering trauma, and psychopathic tendencies. Additionally, he starred in Father John Misty's "Total Entertainment Forever" music video, where he played Kurt Cobain hanging on the cross, alongside Garfield's Jon Arbuckle (credited as "Juan Arbuckle") and Bill Clinton playing the saxophone.
Overnight, Zac Efron became a teenage heartthrob when High School Musical premiered on the Disney Channel. Following two more High School Musical movies, along with box office hits like 17 Again, Hairspray, and The Lorax, it wasn't long before Efron shook things up and tackled a few off-kilter projects. It started with Lee Daniel's The Paperboy, a bizarre Southern melodrama where a jellyfish-stung Zac Efron gets peed on by Nicole Kidman. From there, he appeared in several R-rated comedies, including Neighbors and Dirty Grandpa with Robert De Niro, but his desire to make really out-there movies persisted. Notably, Zac Efron appeared in Harmony Korine's stoner dramedy, The Beach Bum, as Flicker, a pyromaniac, Christian rock music-loving drug addict with a beard inspired by a panini. Then Efron played murder Ted Bundy in the controversial Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which earned strong notices for his menacing turn.
Though unfairly dismissed solely for the Twilight franchise, Kristen Stewart has proven herself to be a tremendously versatile actress, notably with exceptional performances in Clouds of Sils Maria, On the Road, and Certain Women. But in the midst of branching out from Zathura, Panic Room, and Catch That Kid, in addition to the aforementioned Twilight, Stewart has picked some intriguingly off-beat films, including the raunchy stoner action-comedy American Ultra and the soulful supernatural drama, Personal Shopper. The latter, in particular, which finds Stewart as an American in Paris who communicates with her deceased twin via phone, features Stewart's best performance yet — in my view — while her American Ultra performance goes a long way towards bringing grounded humanity (and undervalued comedic chops) to the tonally unfocused movie. While certainly not as weird as the other actors here or Robert Pattinson's post-Twilight work, Stewart continues to prove herself.
Like many things in her life, Lindsay Lohan's acting choices have been wild. While leading roles in Disney's The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Herbie: Fully Loaded, as well as the modern teen classic, Mean Girls, made her a superstar, the career choices she made afterward were ... interesting, to say the least. While things seemed okay in the mid '00s, notably with a great part in Robert Altman's undervalued A Prairie Home Companion, things took a turn when she starred in Chapter 27 with Jared Leto, an ill-advised effort centered around Mark David Chapman, and I Know Who Killed Me, a schlocky D-rate psychological thriller which found Lohan in a dual role as a woman who returns to society after going missing who claim she's another woman. From there, particularly as the tabloids followed her personal life more, things got weirder.
In the years that followed, there was an odd supporting turn in Robert Rodriguez's Machete, an unfortunate appearance in the widely-panned raunchy comedy, InAPPropriate Comedy, directed by Vince Offer (i.e. the creator of the ShamWow), Scary Movie 5, the notoriously troubled The Canyons, which co-starred adult movie star James Deen, and, most recently, Among the Shadows, where Lindsay Lohan starred as a woman hired to help a private detective from a long line of werewolves use her innate instincts to track down her uncle's murderer. Really. Suffice to say, Lohan picks some odd roles.
There are some notable exclusions in this list, including Shia LaBeouf (who certainly garners controversy in his personal life but his acting parts aren't too weird, necessarily) and Miley Cyrus (who has, similarly, participated in a number of bizarre art projects since her Hannah Montana days but hasn't taken on too many odd acting roles since her Disney days). Nevertheless, many former child stars like to diversify their roles and experiment by tackling challenging parts — even if the success rate varies. What your you favorite weird acting choices from one-time child stars? Tell us in the comments.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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