Anna Paquin won the Oscar at age 12. After following The Piano with small roles in such films as Amistad, Hurlyburly and Almost Famous, sheÃs just now starting to burst back on the scene in her returning role of Rogue in X-Men 2.
With the exception of taking a supporting role in SheÃs All That, sheÃs one of the lucky ones.
However, most young actors who briefly joined the Hollywood elite didnÃt stay there for long.
Brooke Shields never won an Oscar, but one wrong move with The Blue Lagoon and her career took almost two decades to get back on track.
Tatum OÃNeill was awarded actorsÃ most prized possession at an early age, but she followed a similar fate as Shields. Now, her fame either comes from watching The Bad News Bears on TBS or hearing more gossip about her failed marriage to tennis star John McEnroe.
The next could-be-great child actor comes in the shape of the cutest blonde to grace the screen in years.
Last year, Dakota Fanning, 8, was nominated for a Screen ActorsÃ Guild (SAG) Award for her powerful performance opposite a mentally retarded Sean Penn in I Am Sam. She was awarded the BAFTA (the British Oscar) for the role.
If she only did I Am Sam, sheÃd still be the real deal. But this week, she graces the screen as young Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) in a couple of flashback sequences in Sweet Home Alabama. The bookends of the film, which is about a second chance at true love, feature Fanning as a little Alabama girl whose wide-eyed innocence reminds us what WitherspoonÃs Melanie used to be like.
ItÃs a small role. ItÃs the type of role she should be playing right now.
Not that her other current role, that of Charlize TheronÃs kidnapped daughter in Trapped, isnÃt right up her alley, either. In fact, sheÃs the best thing about the film.
But two featured roles in two high-profile movies in two short years mirrors the same doomed pattern taken by her kid-actor predecessors.
It would just be a shame if this mature young actress werenÃt allowed to fulfill her potential because she becomes the next Tatum OÃNeill.
Next year, sheÃll be in the spotlight again when Dr. SuessÃ The Cat in the Hat is scheduled to be released.
Looking back on Drew Barrymore and even Macauley Culkin, it was the spotlight that stole their childhood. ItÃs still early for Fanning. But history has shown that some stars who peak too early donÃt always enjoy their success.
Right now, sheÃs laying the groundwork for a star-caliber career. LetÃs just hope her road is paved with the right choices in the next few years.
Or else, we can start looking for the next couldÃve/wouldÃve/shouldÃve-been-but-never-was thespian prodigy.
Contact Will Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org