After becoming one of the most popular child actors at the turn of the century thanks to his beloved role as the precocious Ray in Jerry Maguire (1996) and subsequent gigs in films like Stuart Little (1999), The Little Vampire (2000), and Like Mike (2002), Jonathan Lipnicki peeled back from Hollywood. He auditioned for fewer roles to attend a regular high school, hang out with regular friends, play on regular sports teams.
Lipnicki, now 26, enjoyed his teen years in Agoura Hills, a small city about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, but he admits it has been tough to crack back into the industry. “Most careers, you have 20 years of experience, and it’s a good thing,” Lipnicki told us when he stopped by Yahoo studios to promote the 20th anniversary Blu-ray release of Jerry Maguire. “With acting, the biggest career mistake I ever made is going to public school.”
That’s not to say Lipnicki regrets the semi-hiatus he took. “I would never take that back, I loved it,” he said. “But it’s been hard, the transition, it’s rough.”
That’s also not to say Lipnicki hasn’t been able to find steady employment. Take a look at his IMDb profile, for instance, and you’ll see he has five films currently in post-production. As far as his recent work, he’s most proud of a high school drama he made last year opposite Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos) and Matt McGorry (Orange Is the New Black) called Loserville (watch it here). But the films he has made as an adult haven’t quite set the box office on fire yet.
Lipnicki has found the most difficult part of transitioning from a child star to adult actor simply getting in the room for an audition. “People think I’m still 5, or 10,” he said. “It’s just about reminding people that I’ve grown up.”
The former child star isn’t the first — and certainly won’t be the last — to find that early success can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. But it should help that Lipnicki has the best possible attitude about the challenges he now faces.
“I had a great little run — Jerry Maguire, Stuart Little 1, Stuart Little 2, Little Vampire, Like Mike — all good studio films,” Lipnicki said. “But the best thing that ever happened to me was not working. Now I go to acting class. I’ve done theater… I’ve really just rediscovered loving doing it.”
Look for more coverage of Lipnicki’s Jerry Maguire memories to come on Yahoo Movies.
Watch Renée Zellweger talk ‘Jerry Maguire’ and more in ‘Role Recall’: