As we may have mentioned a few hundred times in the past few weeks, we loved Todd Haynes’s HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce. But we have to admit that something was missing from the last two episodes, which aired Sunday: Morgan Turner. You may not know her by name, but the 11-year-old actress dominated every scene she appeared in as Mildred’s haughty, spoiled daughter Veda — a character so vile she earned a place in our roundup of literature’s most evil children. Although Evan Rachel Wood’s portrayal of a grown-up Veda was fine, as far as we’re concerned the character belongs to Turner. That got us thinking of other instances of relatively unknown child actors stealing the show from their big-name co-stars. Ten of our favorites are after the jump.
Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon
It might have seemed like a cute idea at the time to cast Ryan O’Neal’s real-life daughter Tatum as his kid in Peter Bogdanovich’s Depression-era comedy. But who knew the little thing could act? Playing a pint-size, cigarette-smoking con artist/thief, Tatum was a total badass, displaying a cool intelligence belying her single-digit age. When awards season came around, she became the world’s youngest-ever Oscar winner, beating out her own co-star, Madeline Kahn. Sadly, O’Neal’s childhood was significantly darker than it appeared, and her future was a strange one that included scattered acting roles, dating Michael Jackson for a few years, a tell-all book that accused her father of abuse, and an ongoing drug problem that resulted in a crack-cocaine arrest in 2008.