Child actors you never knew went off the rails from Harry Potter star’s drug bust to joining ‘cult’ – & why it happens

THEY were the pint-sized actors who wowed us with their mature performances in iconic TV shows and films.

But fame didn't always bring these child stars a happy ending.

Last weekend it was revealed former Flight of the Navigator star Joey Cramer was jailed for two years for bank robbery.

The mugshot of the now 48-year-old is a huge contrast to the sweet kid who appeared in the 1986 sci-fi movie, in which Joe co-starred with a young Sarah Jessica Parker.

After filming wrapped, Joey was bullied by his classmates and found a new group of friends – "misfits" who drank and smoked weed.

He told The Daily Star: "I got into cocaine at a really young age, 14 or 15."

He went through rehab when he was 20 and stayed clean for a decade before falling off the wagon at 30.

In 2016, when he was hooked on heroin and homeless, he robbed a bank in British Columbia, Canada, as a way to get into a correctional facility where he could get treatment.

Joey spent two years in prison and is now relaunching his acting career.

But he's far from the only child star whose life hit the skids after short-lived fame.

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Psychologist Emma Kenny, founder of wellbeing app Appy, told The Sun: "Many people believe child stars are lucky, but the reality is that getting famous at a young age can be more of a cross to bear than a badge of honour.

"Having money and popularity at an early age can destroy, as opposed to create, life opportunities.

"Childhood should be a time of freedom, but child stars may be prevented from having freedom and have a more isolated childhood.

"As child stars grow older and gain more independence, they are likely to push the boundaries that were imposed on them early on."

Here we take a look at other young stars whose turbulent lives could have come straight off the pages of a Hollywood script.

The Harry Pot-head star

The Hogwarts pupils who found fame in the seven-film blockbuster series were aged from 11 to 14 when they were cast.

Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, admitted that reaching the dizzy heights of fame at such a young age led him to develop an unhealthy relationship with booze.

And Emma Watson disclosed on the recent reunion show, Return to Hogwarts, that she felt "lonely" and considered quitting before the end of the series.

Jamie Waylett, who played Crabbe in the first five films, was arrested in 2009 for possessing marijuana. He also pleaded guilty to growing the plant at his mother's house.

He was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

In March 2012, he was sentenced to two years in prison for "violent disorder" during the London riots the previous autumn.

He admitted swigging from a stolen bottle of Champagne but was cleared of intending to use a petrol bomb he was pictured holding.

'Raging addict'

They got their big break playing bassist Katie in the 2003 movie School of Rock, but Rivkah Reyes says fame wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Rivkah, who was 10 at the time and now uses the gender-neutral pronoun "they", revealed they were bullied at school and became a "raging addict."

They said: "People were either really nice or really mean. There was no middle ground."

They added that seeing themselves on screen made them think they had "a fat belly and no breasts," and they developed an eating disorder.

In an article in Medium in 2020, when Rivkah had been in recovery from alcohol and addiction for two years, they wrote: "From the age of 14, I used drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and self-harm to numb all of this pain.

"I've survived dozens of toxic relationships and three suicide attempts.

"I'm not saying all of this is because I played bass in a movie when I was a kid but because I spent over a decade terrified that I'd peaked at 10 years old."

Rivkah has had small parts since and continues to act.

Fame turned to 'living hell'

Jake Lloyd was just 10 when he played a young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, alongside Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor.

With such hype over the movie's release, Jake was doing up to 60 interviews a day, and such attention resulted in him being bullied at school.

Jake, who had previously appeared in Jingle All The Way, said: "My entire school life was really a living hell."

He only made a couple more movies – one remained unreleased, and a documentary about Tibetan refugees.

He said: "I've learned to hate it when the cameras are pointed at me."

Jake was jailed in 2015 after leading police on a high speed chase in South Carolina, USA. Soon afterwards, he transferred to a psychiatric unit.

According to entertainment site TMZ, his mum, Lisa, filed a police report three months before the car chase claiming Jake had "stomped on her three or four times" but didn't press charges.

In 2020 the family released a statement to say Jake had moved closer to home and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

School for scandal

Dustin Diamond made his name playing wacky Screech in the Saved by the Bell TV series – starting off in its first incarnation as Good Morning, Miss Bliss in 1988, until 2000, with Saved by the Bell: The New Class, when he played the high school principal's assistant.

Afterwards he toured with his own stand-up comedy and appeared on game shows like The Weakest Link and Celebrity Boxing 2.

But in 2001, he filed for bankruptcy and flogged T-shirts emblazoned with "I paid $15 to save Screeech's house" – which had an extra 'e' in the name to get round copyright.

In 2006, he released a sex tape – Screeched: Saved by the Smell – but later admitted on Oprah Winfrey's show that he didn't appear in it, but rather it was a stunt double.

He was arrested in Wisconsin, US, for possession of a switchblade, which he allegedly pulled during a bar fight in which a man was stabbed.

He served three months in jail for carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.

He died from lung cancer last February, aged 44.

From Dahl-ing to depression

She played Roald Dahl's Matilda, who famously made things happen with her mind.

But when it came to actor Mara Wilson's own mental health, she admits she struggled.

Mara, 34 , first appeared as a six-year-old in Mrs Doubtfire, followed by Miracle on 34th Street, then Matilda when she was nine.

She remembers feeling "very supported" on set, but returning to normal life made her anxious.

She told The Independent: "I think that not having that in my life probably felt like coming down from some kind of high."

Her mother, Suzie, died in 1996, and when Matilda came out the same year, it was dedicated to her.

Not long afterwards, Mara would wash her hands "obsessively until they were red and raw". She also avoided cracks in the pavement and thought of numbers as good or bad.

She was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression and panic disorder, and has since become an advocate for mental health issues.

Found religion and lashed out at show

Two and a Half Men star Angus T. Jones got heavily into religion and joined the Seventh Day Adventists.

His family was concerned he was falling in with "those cults".

Angus turned his back on the programme that made his name, urging fans to stop "filling their heads with filth".

He said: "You can not be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that."

He later backtracked and apologised to his co-stars, but quit the show in 2013 because it was "making light of topics in our world that are really problems for a lot of people".

He stepped out of the limelight, went to college and appeared in a 10-part web series by now disgraced comedian Louis CK., who was accused of sexual misconduct. Angus also became the president of entertainment at an events company. 

He said in 2016, after seemingly stepping away from his religion: "There’s no changing anything. There’s only moving forward.”

Painkiller death

Dana Plato was best known for rich girl Kimberly Drummond on the hit Eighties sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, alongside fellow child actor, the late Gary Coleman, who battled substance abuse.

The Californian actress started her career as an extra in The Six Million Dollar Mar, when she was 11, before appearing in Exorcist II, as well as a number of American TV shows before landing Diff'rent Strokes at 14.

She failed to achieve the same sort of success when she left the show in 1984 after falling pregnant with her son Tyler.

In 1991, she was handed five years' probation after demanding $164 (£120) from a cashier in a video store while holding a pellet gun.

The following year, she spent 30 days in jail for forging a prescription for anxiety medication Diazepam and breaking her probation. She also entered a drug rehab programme.

On May 7, 1999, she told shock jock Howard Stern she had recovered from a drug and alcohol addiction and had been "sober for the longest time".

The following day, she was found dead, after overdosing on Valium and another painkiller.

"From the good life to struggle street"

By his own admission, Home and Away star Felix Dean had the world at his feet.

He landed the part of VJ Patterson when he was 10 and played the role from 2007 to 2014.

But after leaving the soap, he failed to find work and ended up homeless last January.

In October, he was arrested after allegedly attacking a tobacconist with a hammer and was sent to prison on remand.

It was the fourth time he had been arrested in two years.

He is facing 11 charges including assaulting police, affray, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, being armed with intent to commit an indictable offence and larceny.

Felix, now 24, has already pleaded guilty to assault with intent to rob and two counts of recklessly damaging property. He attacked an Uber driver and smashed another person's window, which was captured on CCTV.

He summed up his demise in a social media post that read: "From the good life to struggle street."

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