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21 July 2014 @ 10:47 pm
Well, this one hurts.

Former child actress Skye McCole Bartusiak was found dead in her Houston home on July 19, 2014. She was only 21. She still had so much life yet to live.

The cause of death has not yet been released, but Skye's mother Helen Bartusiak said in a statement to CNN that her daughter suffered epileptic seizures in early childhood, and that they had recently returned. Skye was found dead by her boyfriend, in the bedroom of her garage apartment, attached to her parents' house. Her mother and paramedics both tried to revive her, but she was unresponsive. As so often happens when a former child star dies, rumors began circulating that her death was overdose, but her mother told CNN that Skye did not drink or do drugs.

Born in 1992 in Houston, Skye began modeling at age 2. A few years later, after watching her mom, an acting coach, work with students, she decided that she wanted to trying acting, too. She was soon cast in her first role, in the 1999 TV miniseries Storm of the Century. On the set, Skye met Spencer Breslin, who was also just starting an acting career; Skye would remain good friends with Spencer and his little sister Abigail for the rest of her life. After a blink-and-miss-it part in The Cider House Rules, Skye played Mel Gibson's daughter in the 2000 blockbuster The Patriot, which is probably her best-known role. As the grieving, recently-motherless little Susan, her emotional scenes brought her a lot of attention, and its success led to another substantial part, as Michael Douglas's adorable kidnapped daughter in the 2001 thriller Don't Say a Word.



Skye playing video games with Heath Ledger (who played her brother) on the set of The Patriot. Ledger died in 2008.

Skye's friend and fellow young actress Mika Boorem, who played her sister in The Patriot, costarred with her again a year later in Riding in Cars with Boys, where Mika played the younger version of Drew Barrymore's lead character. Coincidentally, in 2002, Skye reprised Drew's role as young pyrokinesis Charlie McGee in Firestarter 2: Rekindled, a sequel to Firestarter. Although Skye never again had the level of success that she did with The Patriot, she kept busy throughout the early- and mid-00's, doing several TV movies and TV guest appearances. Her 2003 indie short film The Vest, while not a commercial hit, was a hit with critics, and Skye won awards for it at film festivals across the country. She was also nominated for a Young Artist Award for Riding in Cars with Boys, but she lost to Dakota Fanning for I Am Sam.


Skye striking a pose with Brittany Murphy on the set of Don't Say a Word. Brittany died in 2009.

2003 was a big year for Skye. In addition to The Vest, she made a crossover into theater, playing Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker," opposite with Hilary Swank as Annie Sullivan. The show ran for two weeks at the Charlotte Repertory Theater in Charlotte, NC, and it was initially slated to appear on Broadway, but was postponed. (Coincidentally, her friend Abigail Breslin played Helen Keller on Broadway in 2010.) Like many child stars, Skye's acting career slowed down a bit post-puberty, but she continued working steadily. At the time of her death, her most recent projects were Sick Boy, a low-key thriller released in 2012, and two short films.

By all accounts, Skye was a bright, talented, kind-spirited young woman who worked hard at her career and enjoyed it. For her to have died at such a young age is beyond tragic, and she will be missed by many.

Links: Skye Online, a fansite; Skye's page at ChildStarlets; photo album of Skye & Abigail; icons of Skye in Firestarter 2.
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19 July 2014 @ 06:51 pm
Film: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010). Young Actress: Bailee Madison.

I was so excited when Bailee, one of the most talented young actresses working today, was cast as the lead in this horror film with a screenplay by Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth). So, like everyone else, I was very disappointed when I saw the plodding, boring, not scary finished product. In a rare move for a horror movie, we actually get a good look at the monsters here, but unlike the otherworldly creatures in Pan's Labyrinth, these goblins just look cartoonish and silly. The movie also destroys the suspense by immediately telling us their motivation. They enjoy eating the teeth and bones of children, which is why they come after Sally (Bailee) when she moves in with her father (Guy Pearce, Hateship Loveship) and a new stepmother (Katie Holmes) that she's just met.



Even Bailee's naturally brown hair is dyed to a severe, unflattering black here, as if this movie wants to make her look bad in every possible way.

Initially, the goblins lure Sally to them by telling her that they want to play with her and be her friends, and she believes them because she's lonely. She feels ignored by her father (and for the most part, she is) and unloved by the mother who sent her to live with him. But rather than explore this, which might give Sally some personality and Bailee some opportunity to act, the movie instead wastes time on the stupid goblins. We do get a glimpse of Sally bonding with her stepmom, but it's touched on so briefly that it feels forced -- and pointless, since the stepmom doesn't live to see the end. The only survivors are Sally and her dad, who's astonishingly idiotic, even by the "too dumb to live" standard of most parents in horror movies (see also Paranormal Activity 4). This movie is so bad that I wouldn't recommend it even to Bailee fans.
 
 
11 July 2014 @ 08:28 pm
If you're looking for a new young actress movie, you'll find quite a few at your local movie theater. Jennifer Lawrence's X-Men: Days of Future Past, Drew Barrymore's Blended, and Elle Fanning's Maleficent are all still playing, and here's a look at other young actresses who have movies out right now.


Ella Wahlestedt, 18, at the June 14th premiere of her movie Earth to Echo, which she describes as "ET for the selfie generation." The plot of the sci-fi kidventure film (four Nevada kids discover a small alien stranded on earth) certainly bears a lot of resemblance to Drew Barrymore's breakout role. It's the first big-screen role for Ella, a veteran of short films and TV's Army Wives. She says that she almost didn't get the part, which was set to go to a younger actress: "I didn't think I had a shot, but they bumped up the age, then I did a mix and match, and it was a very fast process."


Joey King, now 14, at the June 23rd premiere of her movie Wish I Was Here, a coming-of-late-age story where she plays Zach Braff's daughter. After they shared a recording booth for Oz: The Great and Powerful, Braff later sent Joey a text about this film: "So you wanna read for this with me?" For already the second time in her career, Joey shaved her head for the role: "I didn't cry. I felt like I was going to throw up, though! My sister was pep-talking me, saying, 'Calm down, it's okay.' I really don't know what was going through my mind. It was mostly, 'Don't mess up, don't mess up. You've got one take!' Everyone on set was super supportive. Everyone wore a wig that day for me!"


Nicola Peltz, 19, at the July 9th premiere of her movie Affluenza. She also has Transformers 4 out right now, and while it looks like a brainless blockbuster, let's hope that Affluenza is a bit better. Nicola says that she wanted to do the film because it dealt with decadence and excess, like her favorite book: "The Great Gatsby is my favorite book, so anything having to do with that storyline in the least made me really excited. Kate was a really interesting character to play. I had a lot of fun with it. Kate is someone who should be happy, she has all the materialistic things that she wants, but she's one of those unhappy people. She's a broken person inside."
 
 
03 July 2014 @ 04:03 am
Film: The Book Thief (2013). Young Actress: Sophie Nelisse.

This film begins as two young German children, Liesel (Sophie) and her little brother, are taken from their parents and sent across the country to live with an older childless couple (Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson). Liesel doesn't exactly understand why this happens; it's actually because her parents are Communists who've been imprisoned by the rising Nazi party. Her little brother falls ill and dies on the trip, which is when Liesel first encounters the film's narrator, Death. (She is one of the few people to
“catch” him at his job.) Although this is an interesting concept, Death's narration isn't handled too well, and the way it comes and goes weakens the film.


The film has gorgeous visuals, but it sometimes seems more concerned with looking pretty than with good storytelling.

Liesel sings in the Hitler Youth choir at her new school, but otherwise, she doesn't pay much attention to the war. She's too busy adjusting to her new home, mourning her little brother, bonding with her foster parents, and learning how to read. She's eager to read more than just her schoolbooks, and the Nazis only get her attention when they start burning up all the books in town. She begins stealing books from a wealthy neighbor, which is when Death nicknames her “The Book Thief.” Over the next few years, Liesel's foster parents risk their lives by hiding a Jewish friend, and when Germany begins losing the war, she copes with meager meals, bombings, and her foster dad and best friend Rudy getting drafted. Through it all, she finds an escape in reading books and writing stories of her own. The power of the written word to bring hope and healing is the central theme of the film. Although the film is sometimes too over-the-top in juxtaposing Liesel's innocence against the Nazis' evil, for the most part, it handles the subject well enough.

Although Sophie, who's French Canadian in real life, doesn't do a great German accent as Liesel, I hope that the accent doesn't distract anyone from a very solid lead performance. Even when the film drags, and it certainly does in some scenes (clocking in at over two hours), Sophie makes it worth watching. I was especially struck by her expressive face and body language in the beginning of the film, when Liesel is mute after seeing Death take her brother. Sophie certainly deserved the Young Artist Award nomination that she earned for this film, and her real-life little sister Isabelle (Mama) is also a young actress worth checking out.



Sophie at a screening of The Book Thief, with a replica of the chalkboard that Liesel used to learn how to write.
 
 
30 June 2014 @ 01:44 pm
The 14th Annual BET Awards
Held June 29, 2014, at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Hosted by Chris Rock & Black Entertainment Television.



Keke Palmer, 20, won the YoungStars Award this year. You can see here that she struck some odd poses and didn't smile a lot. At her age, a lot of young actresses, especially those who've been stars for most of their lives, try to look more serious and grown-up. (Emma Watson is a good example.)

BET Network recently gave Keke her own talk show, Just Keke, which premieres today, June 30. Very few former child actresses have ever gone to get their own talk shows - in fact, I think Keke is the first! She's already funny, talented, a great role model, and now, she's the young talk show host in history!



Zendaya Coleman, 17, was nominated for the YoungStars Award, but she lost to Keke. (Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas, 18, was also nominated in this category.) Shortly after the show, Zendaya tweeted: "so proud of @KekePalmer love u girl!! thank you for being such a great role model and inspiration for me!!"


Two former child actresses, now both in their 30's, were also at the show this year: Tatyana Ali & Tamera Mowry, from '90s sitcoms Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Sister, Sister (which Keke has said was one of her favorite shows growing up).
 
 
25 June 2014 @ 01:35 pm
Ariana Grande has certainly been enjoying a star-making summer. Since it premiered at the Radio Disney Music Awards at the end of April, her hit single "Problem" has gone platinum and become the biggest song of the summer. Entertainment Weekly magazine wrote, "The only problem with Ariana Grande's 'Problem' is that it ends," and the song won Ariana so much starpower that MTV resurrected their show Total Request Live (canceled in 2008) for one day only, just to have her on it. She's kept busy touring, performing, promoting her album, and recording tracks for a new one. Although she's best-known for two Nickelodeon shows, Victorious and its spinoff Sam & Cat (costarring Jennette McCurdy), she's been eager to embrace Disney Channel, too. On June 24, she put on Mickey Mouse ears and celebrated her 21st birthday with a party at DisneyWorld.



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20 June 2014 @ 10:34 pm
Film: The Baby-Sitters Club (1995). Young Actresses: Rachael Leigh Cook, Schuyler Fisk, & Larisa Oleynik.

Several young actresses – Rachael and Larisa were the only famous two among them – star in this blandly cliched movie, based on the long-running book series. You might be interested in seeing this film if you grew up reading the books; my sister and I did, and apparently, so did Natalie Portman, who described the characters well in this interview: “I was such a big dork for The Baby-sitters Club, and when I finished I had 250 books. It had all these different types. There was always the hippie [Larisa as Dawn], the tomboy [Schuyler as Kristy], the brainy one [Rachael as Mary Anne]. It’s silly because there’s not an understanding that you can be all of those things.”

But if you're not familiar with the books, then this movie really isn't worth your time. The plot consists of several boring suburban misadventures, and while the young actresses aren't bad (especially considering the dialogue that they have to deliver), they're not good, either. Unfortunately, the girl with the biggest subplot – Schuyler, as club president Kristy – is also the one with the least screen presence. The most watchable is Rachael, who stands out as the cast member with talent. As club secretary Mary Anne, there is something appealing in how soft-spoken and innocent she is.

But while the young actresses are decent enough, I don't even know where to begin with the supporting cast. There's Mary Anne's boyfriend Logan and his insufferably fake Southern accent. There's Dawn's boyfriend Alan, whose “flying” scene is probably the stupidest and most painful scene in the entire movie. There's Kristy's stepfather Watson, who acts bored when his two young children go missing. There's Claudia's father, who has only one offscreen line and yet still manages to be an offensive Asian stereotype! Perhaps most annoying of all is Scarlett Pomers, as a little girl that the club baby-sits for, who is constantly babbling nonsensical lines like, “I saw a tree eat a dog once.” I can only assume that the writers meant her to be cute and funny, but she's as irritating as a mosquito buzzing in your ear. For some strange reason, the supporting cast also includes Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn as Dawn's cranky neighbor; The Baby-Sitters Club is better than Flowers in the Attic (where she played Kiernan Shipka's grandmother), but that isn't saying much.


For screencaps and a second opinion, here's the review from Young Actress Reviews.

 photo BabySittersClub_zps150ab3cd.jpg
The members of the club, plus Scarlett
 
 
10 June 2014 @ 04:30 pm
One of the cutest young actresses working today, Modern Family's Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, turned 7 on June 6, and she celebrated her birthday with a sweet party with Strawberry Shortcake.



How adorable is she?!

It looks like Aubrey had a fun time at her Strawberry Shortcake party. I just hope that her family also threw her a private party with some other 7-year-olds. Too many former child stars have said how much they regret not spending time with kids their own age while growing up.
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09 June 2014 @ 04:16 pm
Maleficent, Disney's long-awaited, live-action look at one of its most famous villains, is finally in theaters. Of course, Elle Fanning, who stars as Princess Aurora opposite Angelina Jolie's Maleficent, was front and center at the premiere, and so were a lot other young actresses. The premiere was held May 28, at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.


Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, 6
I love how she's so tiny that her head doesn't even reach the sponshorship logos!



Rowan Blanchard, 12
Rowan has such a unique face. Girl Meets World premieres at the end of June, and Disney has had her attending a lot of events to promote it.


Willow Shields, 13
This was Willow's last event as a 13-year-old. She turned 14 just four days later.



Bailee Madison, 14
I love the patterns of this dress. It's a perfect choice for Bailee -- summery and age-appropriate.


G Hannelius, 15


Elle Fanning, 16
"Now I can say my dream came true and I've become a Disney princess."



Peyton List, 16
This dress is really similar to the one that Peyton wore to the Kids Choice Awards (but with a higher neckline, thankfully).


Emily Osment, 22


Sarah Hyland, 23
Compared to the other young actresses there, Sarah's outfit is a bit sloppy.
 
 
08 June 2014 @ 07:56 pm
Emmy-winning actress Ann B. Davis, best known for playing Alice on the '70s sitcom The Brady Bunch, died on June 1, 2014, in a San Antonio hospital. She was 88. The three former young actresses who played the Brady sisters all remembered Davis via Twitter postings, or even old-school statements.

Maureen McCormick, via a statement: "I admired Ann B. so much as an actor. She was one of the greats. Most of all, I admired her heart. She was a dear friend -- deep, honest and true. She was one of my earliest role models, and that continues to this day. She made me a better person. How blessed I am to have had her in my life. She will be forever missed."

Eve Plumb, via a statement: "Ann was an amazing lady. She was great to work with, and I have wonderful memories of our scenes together on The Brady Bunch. She was kind and generous to all of us on set. Although we hadn't seen each other as often as we may have wanted to in the last few years, I am sure she knew she held a very important place in my heart. My thoughts are with her family and friends."

Susan Olsen, via her Facebook page: "I was waiting for it to reach the news before saying anything. Yes, it's true, our beloved Ann B. passed away this morning. I loved her work even before I knew and loved her. When I was five, I got the Hong Kong flu. I missed a lot of school and stayed in bed watching TV. I loved The Bob Cummings Show because I enjoyed Ann B. in the role of his secretary Schultzy. I was overjoyed when I learned that I would be working with her on Brady Bunch. Already a fan, it was only icing on the cake to get to know her. She always treated us kids with respect and we knew we were working with greatness. I'm happy to know that she never lost her beautiful mind and razor sharp wit. She will be dearly missed by the many who knew her and the many more who felt like they did."



Susan Olsen, Maureen McCormick, Ann B. Davis, & Eve Plumb, on The Brady Bunch