Saturday, January 31, 2015

Justin Bieber, child actors

Years ago, I read someone marveling over the Indian-born actor Sabu. He had reportedly been an orphan working as a stable boy when he was discovered at age 13 and cast in The Elephant Boy. His father had been an elephant driver who died when the boy was 9. After that, he starred in Drum, The Thief of Bagdad and The Jungle Book. He had gone instantly from being unknown to being a major international star.

But it's not that unusual with child stars. Look at how many child actors are cast in major roles with little or no experience. Claude Jarman was 10, living in Nashville, when he was discovered and cast in The Yearling. He got an Oscar for that.

Christopher Atkins was 18 and had worked as a lifeguard with no thought at all about acting when he was cast in The Blue Lagoon. He's worked steadily ever since and has a long list of credits on

The younger you are, the better your chances.

I mention this because I just watched Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC argue that Justin Bieber should have gone to college, THEN pursued a singing career. Bieber grew up in poverty and couldn't have gone to college anyway. Now he's a millionaire. And like all the other celebrities, he can get into any university he wants. Jonathan Taylor Thomas went to Harvard, Jodie Foster went to Yale, Brooke Shields went to Princeton, Natalie Portman went to Harvard, that girl from Flashdance went to Yale. Admission requirements to elite schools are entirely subjective. They may not have had the grades or the test scores to get into a middling state college, but they were rich and famous enough to get into elite schools.

Realistically, where would Justin Bieber be if he hadn't jumped at his chance when he was 12? The poor boy has had some legal problems lately, but that may have happened anyway. The difference now is that he's a millionaire. If he weren't he might have ended up rotting in some Canadian prison.

There are people who put down parents trying to get their kids into the movies, but it's really the kids' only chance. And look at the American economy. Movies and weaponry are our only exports.

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