Childhood flashbacks can be a tricky thing to get right on screen, but here are 10 casting decisions that got it absolutely spot-on
More often than not, these cinematic jaunts down memory lane pull up somewhere near the schoolroom, playground or another formative childhood experience. Grown-up movie characters drift off, remembering key moments from their youth: that time a Vietnam vet handed them a gold watch, that day they spent larking around on their first sled, or the night they witnessed their parents being gunned down by hoods after a night at the theatre.
We’ve gathered together the ten best childhood flashback casting decisions in cinema, the ones where pint-sized versions of the older stars not only looked, but acted the part.
Izzy Meikle-Small as Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go
jawlines and prettily crooked smile they could be sisters – but the performance.
Meikle-Small was able to translate Mulligan’s wise-beyond-her-years watchfulness as carer Kathy even as a schoolgirl, and there’s a reason for that. Romanek rehearsed the child and adult actors together, having the grown-ups (Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley) play the children’s scenes and vice versa, so a common character thread was established between each pair and it paid off in spades.
Bobby Anderson as Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life
Bobby Anderson (later Robert J. Anderson, Hollywood production manager) was the boy who, at the age of thirteen, was tasked with portraying the young George Bailey. One moment of the film in particular shows what a fantastic choice Anderson made for the part. It’s the scene in which young George stops his grief-stricken pharmacist boss from accidentally poisoning a child, and it gets me every time.
Anderson is backing away from another beating by Mr Gower, cupping his bleeding ear and begging the old man not to hit him again, all the time reassuring his boss that the poison was an honest mistake. Mr Gower’s final lunge for George turns into a desperate hug when he realises the service the child has done him. It’s enough to make you want to take leaf out of Donna Reed’s book, lean over the counter and whisper “George Bailey, I’ll love you till the day I die.”
Mila Kunis as Angelina Jolie in Gia
A petite brunette with bee-stung lips and Bratz doll eyes, Mila Kunis’ facial similarities to Jolie seemed almost genetic. The role as eleven-year-old Gia didn’t ask for her to do much except for look the part, but it was a great bit of casting and an early glimpse of Kunis’ future success.
River Phoenix as Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Phoenix admitted to impersonating Ford for laughs on the set of Mosquito Coast (evidently a braver man than I) and making use of those mannerisms as the teenage Indy. Though only a five minute role, it was action-packed, with Phoenix as young Indiana Jones giving us the origins of the Fedora, the whip, the scar, and exactly why Indy hates snakes. That moment on the train still haunts my nightmares…
Mayim Bialik as Bette Midler in Beaches
For the childhood flashback showing the girls’ boardwalk meeting, they needed a kid with the pep and verve of Bette Midler’s CC, as well one who was a dead ringer for the big-haired singer. Who better than Mayim Bialik, or Blossom to those who know her from the 1990s kids’ TV sitcom?
Currently starring in The Big Bang Theory, Mayim Bialik was perfect as the brassy young CC with the show tunes voice. Stellar bit of casting, that.
Michael Conner Humphreys as Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
The “run Forrest run” scene became so well-known it’s long since fallen into parody, but Humphreys was behind other moments just as enjoyable. Strutting around to Elvis Presley’s guitar, whooping like a baboon after hearing his new headmaster ‘strike a deal’ with his mother, and being like peas and carrots with best friend, Humphreys (and Hannah Hall as young Jenny for that matter) turned in a charming performance.
Anna Paquin as Charlotte Gainsbourg in Jane Eyre
Paquin’s next film role found her playing the young Charlotte Gainsbourg in Franco Zeffirelli’s Jane Eyre, a part she undertook with the required seriousness and gumption of spirit.
We’d like Paquin to share this honour with young Amelia Clarkson, who delivered a blinding performance in Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of the novel currently in cinemas, as the mini-version of Mia Wasikowska’s Jane. Read our review of the film here.
Logan Lerman as Ashton Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect
The physical similarity is absolutely there, and Lerman showed real promise with a difficult part inside this mess of a movie. The young actor has since gone on to a truck-load of roles, not least playing lead D’Artagnan in Paul W.S. Anderson’s new version of The Three Musketeers. Well spotted, casting director, seems you caught a good’un.
Ella Purnell as Keira Knightley in Never Let Me Go
Christa B. Allen as Jennifer Garner in 13 Going On 30 (and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past)
2004’s 13 Going On 30 was Allen’s first big-screen role before she went on to reprise her part as mini Jennifer Garner in 2009’s not-very-good Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Alas, the trend couldn’t continue, as Allen is quite definitely 20 years old now, whilst Jennifer Garner is set to permanently remain 35 in that way Hollywood actresses seem to these days. Still, it was nice while it lasted.