Oscars 2017: 10 Acting Nominees Who Started (Very) Young

11:19 AM 2/23/2017

by Kendal McAlpin

From Ryan Gosling's 'Mickey Mouse Club' gig to Natalie Portman's breakout in 'The Professional' at age 12, these actors got started early on their journey to the Academy Awards.

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman

The countdown to the Oscars is well underway. As producers scramble to rainproof the Dolby Theatre red carpet before Sunday’s ceremony, THR takes a look at the early careers of this year’s acting nominees. 

  1. 1

    Casey Affleck

    41 (best actor, 'Manchester by the Sea')

    Most fans first remember Casey Affleck from his role in big brother Ben's Good Will Hunting in 1997. But his acting career started almost a decade earlier, in 1988, at age 13, with a part opposite Kevin Bacon in a PBS television movie called Lemon Sky (pictured above). Soon after, he played teenage Bobby Kennedy on the ABC series The Kennedys of Massachusetts (the 1990 series won an Emmy and a Golden Globe).

  2. 2

    Jeff Bridges

    67 (best supporting actor, 'Hell or High Water')

    Jeff Bridges (and his brother Beau) made appearances as kids on Sea Hunt, dad Lloyd Bridges’ classic TV show about a scuba-diving family. But Jeff's very first (uncredited) role was as an infant at a train station in the 1951 film The Company She Keeps; the actor was only a year old when it arrived in theaters. A string of roles followed in his teens and early twenties, including coming-of-age film The Last Picture Show (shown above).

  3. 3

    Ryan Gosling

    36 (best actor, 'La La Land')

    Gosling learned to sing and dance at age 11 on The New Mickey Mouse Club (shown above) — alongside castmates Keri Russell, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake (up for his own Oscar for best original song). In his later teens, he spent time on the TV circuit (Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark) before landing a role, at age 20, in the football drama Remember the Titans.

  4. 4

    Naomie Harris

    40 (best supporting actress, 'Moonlight')

    As a student at the Anna Scher Theatre School in London, she acted in several stage productions before landing her first television role, at age 11, on BBC children’s show Simon and the Witch (shown above). After that, she starred on a children’s adventure series called Runaway Bay. It followed a group of friends having adventures on a Caribbean island. She worked steadily in television through her teens, including a part in the science-fiction remake The Tomorrow People.

  5. 5

    Lucas Hedges

    20 (best supporting actor, 'Manchester by the Sea')

    A 10-year-old Lucas Hedges caught the acting bug after landing a one-line role in 2007’s Dan in Real Life, a Steve Carell comedy directed by his dad, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Peter Hedges (Lucas' line was cut in postproduction). A few years later, in 2012, at 15, he starred as an antagonistic boy scout in Moonrise Kingdom, the resentful teenage son of Colin Firth in Arthur Newman, and a younger version of Ewan McGregor in TV drama The Corrections. The following year, he snagged a small part in The Zero Theorem (pictured above).

  6. 6

    Nicole Kidman

    49 (best supporting actress, 'Lion')

    Kidman took up drama during high school in Australia and studied acting at a local theater with fellow classmate Naomi Watts. By the time she was 16, she had roles in several Aussie TV movies (Skin DeepBush ChristmasBMX Bandits and Chase Through the Night). Her big break came at 21, though, when she was cast in the 1989 thriller Dead Calm (a year later, she married Tom Cruise). Next, she acted in the 1990 film Flirting (pictured above).

  7. 7

    Dev Patel

    26 (best supporting actor, 'Lion')

    Dev Patel began acting at 17 on the 2007 British teen drama Skins. He had no prior acting experience and landed the role after responding to a casting ad in a newspaper. Just one year later he was starring in Slumdog Millionaire.

  8. 8

    Natalie Portman

    35 (best actress, 'Jackie')

    Natalie Portman was 12 years old when she made her scene-stealing debut opposite Jean Reno in 1994’s Leon: The Professional (shown above). A year later, she appeared in Heat alongside Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer. At age 16, she acted in a Woody Allen flick with Julia Roberts. She won her first Oscar, for 2011’s Black Swan, at 30.

  9. 9

    Emma Stone

    28, (best actress, 'La La Land')

    At age 14, Emma Stone convinced her parents to let her move from Arizona to Los Angeles (she pitched them the idea with a PowerPoint presentation in her bedroom) and within a year landed the Laurie Partridge role on VH1’s New Partridge Family pilot (the series never got picked up). She got her first big break at 19, when she was cast as Jonah Hill’s love interest in Superbad (shown above).

  10. 10

    Michelle Williams

    36 (best supporting actress, 'Manchester by the Sea')

    Williams made her TV debut at age 14 in a 1993 episode of Baywatch (she played a crush of David Hasselhoff’s son, Hobie). The following year she graduated to a starring role on a big-screen adaptation of Lassie, then continued to add to her résumé throughout her teens with shows like Step by Step and Home Improvement before landing her breakthrough role in 1998 on Dawson’s Creek (pictured above).

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