Previously Known For: Jerry Maguire, Stuart Little and Like Mike
|Currently Known For: Mixed Martial Artist and films Boone: The Bounty Hunter, Altitude, and The Lake|
“All I’ve ever wanted to do my entire life is make movies. To be made fun of for the thing that you love and be told you’re not going to be a success is hard.” Describing himself as “a kid from SoCal who likes to make movies,” Jonathan Lipnicki’s venture into acting was purely by accident when his mother brought him along to his older sister’s acting class in the early 1990s. “I gave it a try,” Lipnicki recalled. “I loved it right off the bat and started auditioning. I booked a few commercials and then Jerry Maguire.”
Adorable with his spiky blonde hair and toothy smile, Lipnicki caught a huge break long before he was old enough to even realize what show business was when he was cast as Renee Zellweger’s on-screen son in the 1996 blockbuster featuring Tom Cruise titled Jerry Maguire. Although he wasn’t the first choice for the role, the original child actor who was cast wasn’t thrilled with the part as producers flew Lipnicki out to the set in Arizona where he met director Cameron Crowe and read with Tom Cruise.
“The thing I remember most is going to Arizona after I read for it, flying to meet Tom and Cameron,” the now 27-year-old Lipnicki recalls. “I remember bits of that. I remember being in Tom’s trailer, reading for Tom and Cameron with my mom there. It was a crazy experience…. I heard the kid wasn’t very happy on set and it just wasn’t working out. It was coming across on camera. I was kind of the opposite. I loved and still love being on set, so I was just happy to be there every day.”
Instantly winning over Cameron and Cruise, Lipnicki snagged the role and became one of Hollywood’s favorite child actors as the youngster befriended his costars behind the scenes, a friendship that he says continues today especially with Cruise. “I just really gravitated towards Tom because he’s just such a nice guy and I loved hanging out and joking around him,” Lipnicki says. “I would talk his ear off about Top Gun because I love Top Gun. Cameron was super sweet. Renee was really great. Renee always had her dog around and I love dogs, so I was always excited about that.”
With an incredible first experience on the set, Lipnicki became an overnight star thanks to Jerry Maguire and knew he was on the right path as he made cameos in episodes of The Single Guy, Dawson’s Creek and Meego while starring as Jeff Foxworthy’s young son on The Jeff Foxworthy Show from 1996 to 1997. As his television career flourished, he made his way back to film and voiced the Baby Tiger in Dr. Doolittle and starred as George Little in Stuart Little and Stuart Little 2. Adding in appearances on The Rosie O’Donnell Show and in flicks like The Little Vampire and Like Mike, Lipnicki’s popularity dwindled in the new millennium as he transitioned from an adorable youngster into a teen and snagged minor roles in lesser known films like When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and The L.A. Riot Spectacular.
“It’s definitely been difficult, but if you love something enough it doesn’t matter what obstacles you face,” Lipnicki said of making the transition from child star to adult actor. Opting to step out of the spotlight at 14 years old, Lipnicki resumed his life at Agoura High School and, after graduation in 2011, signed on for acting classes. “My biggest decision was to really focus on being a good actor, so I’ve been taking classes for quite a few years now and doing theater,” he said. “Not every movie you’re going to do is going to be Jerry Maguire or a $100 million franchise like Stuart Little, so people are like, ‘Oh, where has this person been?’ But often times you look at people like that, that you think just disappeared, and they’re on a TV show or they are working consistently. It’s just not everything you do is going to happen to be that big or widespread.”
Making his grand return to acting as Young Yoni in For the Love of Money in 2011, Lipnicki has spent most of his energy on independent projects and training as a mixed martial artist, a hobby that has helped him fight his ongoing battle with anxiety and depression after years of being bullied at school. Often bullied for his fame, the 27-year-old Lipnicki recently spoke out about his experience saying, “I didn’t go a day without going home and being upset. I didn’t go a day without being called some form of gay slur, or a hateful slur pretty much every day of middle school… I had my own group of friends and people knew me, but it was a wide spectrum. It was kids who thought it was cool, but then you had kids who were really mean. It was something I definitely had to overcome. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me a little bit to this day to a point where I do have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder where I want to prove the world wrong.”
Using mixed martial arts as an outlet for his frustrations and his anxiety, Lipnicki doesn’t plan on fighting professionally, at least not anytime soon, because his love is still in acting, which is why his recent credits include independent flicks like Loserville, Boone: The Bounty Hunter, Altitude and The Lake. “I’m out to prove anyone wrong that’s ever doubted me,” he says. “I love work and I love the art of it. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to go and say, ‘Look at me now. I’m happy. I’m creating my art and you can’t stop me.’”
Certainly unstoppable, the 27-year-old Lipnicki is also incredibly wise for his age and encourages young men and women to find their passion whether it’s acting, martial arts, basketball, painting or something else. “If I had advice for anyone, it’s find an outlet,” he says. “Whatever that is, just be the best you that you can be. Just know that it does get better. I’ve never been in such a good place because I’ve been striving so hard for what I love.”