ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

We watched the VHSs until they wore out, subjecting our parents to rewatchings with no doubt excruciating frequency. We knew the lines off by heart and also didn't care if the special effects were, by todays standards, pretty terrible. Then there's the awful fashion, but hey, this was the 1980s.

For some, the 1980s are nothing but Cold War tension and miner strikes, for others - notably the children of the 1980s - they were a great time filled with reams of Hollywood classics and ZX Spectrums.

Many of the popular kids movies of the 1980s also featured young stars who acted as an on screen surrogate for the glued-to-the-screen kid viewer, but what happened to many of these child stars after they appeared in their movies? Well, let's find out.

Joey Cramer - Flight of the Navigator (1986)

I used to love Flight of the Navigator. In fact, I'd probably have to say it was the most rewatched video we had in the house - even though it was a version we recorded off the television and had to constantly fast-forward though cereal commercials.

It is the story of David Freeman (Joey Cramer), a sci-fi obsessed 12 year old who wakes up in 1986, eight years after he went mysteriously missing. After being grabbed by NASA for testing, he is contacted telepathically by an alien spaceship and ends up going on an incredible journey aided by a Beach Boys soundtrack.

What Happened to Joey Cramer?

Well, despite appearing in a massive Disney movie, it looks like acting didn't really take off for Cramer. He appeared in a few episodes of Murder, She Wrote and a couple of TV movies, but for the most part he hasn't acted since 1987 - except one uncredited role as a party guest in 1996's It's My Party.

Instead, Cramer worked in a Canadian sporting goods store for a while, although in recent years he has seemingly got into trouble with the police. He has been arrested several times for crimes including check fraud, carless use of a firearm, drinking liquor in public and threats of physical violence to others.

Ralph Macchio - The Karate Kid (1984)

Karate Kid is a masterpiece. There's no two ways about it. Back in the 1980s, it inspired kids everywhere to tie their dressing gown belts around their waist and kick the living crap out of their younger siblings (unfortunately, in my household that was me). As well as arguably rejuvenating martial arts amongst young people in the post-Bruce Lee years, it also sired the BEST montage that ever existed in cinematic history. That's the fact.

What Happened to Ralph Macchio?

Unlike Cramer, Macchio is still pretty active in the acting circuit, although he has not appeared in a major movie in recent years (with the exception of 2012's Hitchcock). Despite this, he has made many appearances in television series such as Ugly Betty, Entourage, Robot Chicken, Psych and Happily Divorced and is also writing and directing his own shorts. In fact, it seems Macchio has lived a rather scandal-free life for a 1980s movie star, a fact parodied in Funny Or Die's Wax On, Fuck Off - which Macchio helped to write.

Zach Galligan - Gremlins (1984)

I still amazes me that people think Gremlins is a family movie. When I first saw it in the early 1990s, I was under no illusions it was an out-and-out horror. The Gremlins freaked me the hell out, while I was also perpetually confused by the concept that you shouldn't feed the Gremlins after midnight? Isn't it always technically after midnight? When do you feed them?

Anyway, Zach Gilligan wasn't exactly a child star when he appeared in the role of Billy Peltzer in Gremlins - he was 20 at the time - but it's still interesting to see what the star of this iconic 1980s family film has been up to.

What Happened to Zach Galligan?

Galligan can still be seen on screens of various sizes, and he has become a veteran of schlocky horror in recent years. His extensive filmography includes roles in movies such as Waxwork, Cyborg 3: The Recycler, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, Infested, Nightbeasts and Hatchet III, and while none of them have reached the lofty heights of Gremlins, he still seems able to grab some roles. The only other interesting information I could find about Galligan also concerns trouble with the police. Back in 2003 he was arrested for shoplifting a Deep Purple CD. Regarding the incident, he said:

"This is the stupidest thing I've ever done."

Amy O' Neill - Honey I Shrunk The Kids

Amy O'Neill played Amy Szalinski, one of the two children of a hapless inventor played by Rick Moranis. After being accidentally shrunk and thrown out in the trash, Amy, her brother and their friends must battle insects and other obstacles to eventually find their way back into the house. Honey I Shrunk The Kids was an unexpected hit for Disney when it hit theaters in 1989. It was so successful (it was the highest grossing live-action Disney movie at the time) it spawned two sequels, while a 3D movie became a presence at Disney's Epcot until 2010.

What Happened to Amy O'Neill ?

Unfortunately, O'Neill's post Honey career wasn't quite as successful. O'Neill appeared in a few television movies and series, including roles in Murder, She Wrote and Star Trek: The Next Generation, although her main credits are the Honey I Shrunk The Kids sequels. She apparently became disillusioned with acting after many of the roles she received after breaking out in Honey, mostly because they contained nudity of some sort. Instead she joined the circus of a childhood friend as a performer and has since become part of the "Girls on Stilts" troupe. She is not currently married, although she hopes to find someone who is not "intimidated" by her performance work.

Barret Oliver - The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Wolfgang Petersen's The NeverEnding Story is a keystone in many 1980s kids' cinematic upbringing. The story of Bastian and his luckdragon companion, Falkor, really hit a cord with many American youngsters, despite the fact the movie was actually produced in West Germany. The film spawned three sequels and an animated series, but to most kids there is only one Bastian - Barret Oliver.

What Happened to Barret Oliver?

Oliver continued to act after The NeverEnding Story, but not for much longer. He appeared in D.A.R.Y.L. and Cocoon as well as Tim Burton's original short film version of Frankenweenie. However, Oliver has apparently found success in a different vocation. He is now a printer and photographer who specializes in the nineteen century processes of collodion and Woodburytype. His work has featured in films, museums and galleries while he has also published a book, A History of the Woodburytype.

Jeff Cohen - The Goonies

The Goonies was a launchpad for many future stars including Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and - to a slightly lesser extent - Correy Feldman. However, for some, like Chunk actor Jeff Cohen, success lay on a different career path.

What Happened to Jeff Cohen?

Although Cohen might not have found success on the big screen, that doesn't mean he hasn't carved himself out a lucrative career. Cohen appeared in a few television series following his role in The Goonies, but by 1991 he had all but given up acting.

He attended the University of California, Berkeley and became President of the Associated Students on an election campaign that simply featured the words "Chunk for President." He was also known to perform his famous Truffle Shuffle on the sidelines at football games.

Eventually, however, Cohen gained a law degree from UCLA and began to get involved in the production side of Hollywood, most notably working as an executive producer on television documentary The Living Century from 2001 to 2003.

He is now an attorney and founding partner of Cohen & Gardner LLP.


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