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Where are they now?: Four memorable movie kids

Peter Billingsley looking dapper at the Tony Awards in 2013
Photo by Larry Busacca

The most adorable movie kiddos seem to be in our memories, forever, as little ones. And, when we see the stray updated picture of our yesteryear movie lads, it’s almost perceived as a shocking jolt. “How could ‘Ralphie’ be THAT old now!?”

With the advent of streaming video and immediate-access films, it may seem that the frozen-in-time movie kiddos never really grow up, but they do still endure the consequences of age. Come with me, and be surprised, as we jog down memory lane to find out what has happened to four of the most memorable movie kids from the semi-recent past.

Peter Billingsley
Peter Billingsley Getty

Peter Billingsley

Billingsley is most famous for his role as Ralphie, the young tow-headed boy always in pursuit of a Red Ryder BB gun (with a “compass in the stock”) in the now classic "A Christmas Story" (1983). Although Billingsley followed up the popular Christmas tale with numerous television (and some movie) appearances, the transition into teendom and adulthood as an actor was challenging. However, a fortuitous meeting with a young Vince Vaughn (yes, the actor) during a 1990’s-era "CBS Schoolbreak Special," led to a long-lasting friendship and collaborative partnership. Years later, Vaughn later introduced Billingsley to his friend, actor/writer/director Jon Favreau, and the three became mutually interested in the creation of new films. With Favreau, the actor later executive produced "Iron Man" and appeared in "Elf" as an uncredited elf. With Vaughn, they created a production company and he executive produced Vaughn’s "Four Christmases" (among other films) and the TBS’ series, "Sullivan and Son."

Jonathan Lipnicki
Jonathan Lipnicki Getty

Jonathan Lipnicki

Jonathan Lipnicki was the pokey-haired, bespectacled little blondie, just 5 at the time of filming, from Tom Cruise’s "Jerry Maguire" (1996). Lipnicki captured hearts as Renée Zellweger’s on-screen son, who precociously queried Cruise’s Maguire, asking, “D'you know that the human head weighs 8 pounds?” Lipnicki went on to make TV and movie appearances through the 2000’s, including "Stuart Little" (and its sequel) and "The Little Vampire." But, after his early success, Lipnicki decided to return to a more “normal” existence and attended public school in California through high school. In recent years, Lipnicki has become an MMA enthusiast with a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (his family owns a MMA promotion company) and has a chiseled physique to match, a far cry from the boy’s role for which he is most famous. Lipnicki has returned to acting in the past several years with television appearances and a few independent films.

Haley Joel Osment
Haley Joel Osment Getty

Haley Joel Osment

If you were a moviegoer in 1999, then you remember the “I see dead people” performance of young Haley Joel Osment. Osment co-starred with Bruce Willis in the sci-fi/drama-thriller, "The Sixth Sense," which told the story of a boy who could see and experience those who had already passed into the next realm. The film was a critical and box-office success, collecting almost $300 million dollars and earning high praise for Osment’s emotional performance. Although the young actor had been in successful films before (he had played Forrest Gump’s son, Forrest Junior, in 1994), "The Sixth Sense" significantly raised Osment’s profile and payday, helping him earn $2 million dollars by the time he starred in Steven Spielberg’s less-than-successful "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" (2001). Major roles slowed down by 2003 for the sandy-blond actor, and instead, he lent his voice to several videogames in the popular "Kingdom Hearts" series. Most recently, Osment is filming the feature-length, Warner Brothers’-produced version of the hit HBO series, "Entourage," scheduled to come out in 2015.

Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin Getty

Macaulay Culkin

Once trained as a ballet dancer (hence his appearance on film in 1993’s "The Nutcracker"), Macaulay Culkin had small parts in a few films (most notably as Miles in 1989’s "Uncle Buck") before hitting the supertrain of fame in 1990’s slapstick family comedy, "Home Alone." Mac played Kevin McAllister, a clever and ingenious 8-year-old who has to defend his house from two would-be burglars after his family accidentally leaves him at home during their trip to Paris. After "Home Alone" was released, it was the number one film at the box office for 12 straight weeks and, when all was said and done, the juggernaut comedy had earned almost $500 million dollars worldwide.

“Mack” continued his success in "Home Alone 2" (1992), but as is the pattern, Culkin’s film popularity waned until his fairly positive critical reception in the daringly different R-rated indie film, "Party Monster" (2003). Culkin’s personal life also remained bumpy. He married actress Rachel Miner in 1998 (when he was 18), they separated by 2000, and divorced two years later. The former youthful superstar was also linked to actress Mila Kunis from 2002-2011. Most recently, Culkin has been seen with actress Jordan Lane Price (of All My Children fame) and has been heavily involved in his NYC-based band, Pizza Underground, which, reportedly, spreads “the good word of Pizza.” You can watch Mack’s new, late 1960s-inspired, unusual performance art video here.