'Mrs. Doubtfire's Mara Wilson Explains Why Child Stars Go Wrong
“Not many child stars make it out of Hollywood alive or sane, and at any given time there are at least three former ones having very public breakdowns,” Wilson, now 25, explains in her essay 7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy on Cracked.com.
Among the obvious reasons, their parents are often forcing them into it. "Kids whose parents pushed them into acting often grow up to resent them. They never had a choice, and worse, they never had the chance to be a kid."
Wilson also says that kids don't understand that all this attention might be fleeting, because there's an expiration date on cuteness. "Years of adulation and money and things quickly become normal, and then, just as they get used to it all, they hit puberty—which is a serious job hazard when your job is being cute," she writes. As we all know, "A child actor who is no longer cute is no longer monetarily viable and is discarded."
Another factor, Wilson points out, is the pressure fans put on you. "Having to live up to your fan base is a little like having to deal with a million strict parents who don't actually love you. They reward you for your cuteness and cleverness, but are quick to judge and punish. And they do not want you ever to grow up." She says that the adolescent meltdowns are almost inevitable. "How do you react? The way any sullen teenager does: You get resentful, and as soon as you have the freedom, you act out."
She also recalls the time she was asked—when she was 7— to comment on the Hugh Grant prostitution scandal since he was her costar in Nine Months. Her father's complaint that the question was inappropriate fell on deaf ears, illustrating her point that even reasonably responsible parents of child stars very often have little control over their ultra-famous offspring, as Billy Ray Cyrus has admitted.
Although Wilson avoided her own public meltdowns and other pitfalls of child stars, she admits she's still camera-shy. "Even now, I will duck out of the way at parties when someone brings out a camera—even though I'm well over 21, I haven't been a recognizable name in years, and my parties tend to be less 'coke orgy,' more 'board game bonanza.'"
She says of her acting days, "It was generally a good experience, but every day I'm glad I wasn't Olsen twins famous."