It looked as though he was destined to be yet another child star who failed to make the jump to adult roles. But 13 years after Jackie Earle Haley disappeared from the silver screen he made one of the biggest comebacks in movie history, earning an Oscar nomination in the process.
When Jackie's wife Amelia woke him up in January 2007 to tell him he'd been nominated for an Oscar, the pair dissolved into tears. "It was an incredible moment," said the actor. "Pure unbelievable joy". The honour had a more emotional impact on Jackie than perhaps many of the other nominees, for he had not worked on screen for 13 years. Instead he'd been making ends meet delivering pizzas, driving limos and working as a security guard before setting up a video-directing company.
Born on July 14, 1961, in Northridge, California, Jackie began his showbiz career at the age of five, appearing in commercials and doing voiceovers as Dennis The Menace in a series of cartoons. He went on to become one of the child stars of the Seventies, delivering his breakthrough performance in 1976 as charismatic bad boy Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears
. He reprised the role in two sequels before putting in yet another acclaimed appearance in 1979's Breaking Away
, as Moocher - a small town Indiana boy fresh out of high school.
He'd just turned 18 and the future seemed bright, but as for many child stars before him the good parts started to dry up and he ended up making what he now calls "lame" movies to pay the bills. One of those included 1983's Losin' It
with a then unknown Tom Cruise
. "(We) did the same movie, and it had the opposite effect on our careers." As he approached 30 Jackie made the decision to step away from acting. Moving from low level jobs to pay the rent, he established his own company and became a successful producer and director of TV commercials.
Putting acting "on the shelf", he based himself in Texas with wife Amelia and their kids Christopher and Olivia and got on with a life away from the limelight. Then, in 2004, a phone call out of the blue changed everything. Director Steven Zaillian, who remembered the actor from his Seventies movies, cast Jackie as Sean Penn
's bodyguard in All The King's Men
. That led to an audition for Little Children
who's star, Kate Winslet
, was enthusiastic about getting him on board. "We read together; he gave the most breathtaking audition I've ever seen in my life. And Todd gave him the job on the spot."
It wasn't the easiest of parts in which to make his comeback a sex offender whose release from prison gives rise to hatred and panic among his neighbours - but it earned him plaudits across the industry. Despite losing out to Little Miss Sunshine
's Alan Arkin in the best supporting actor category at the Oscars, nothing could dampen Jackie's spirits. He was back in the game.