One of the biggest teen heartthrobs of the 1980s is turning 50! That's right, Kirk Cameron marks the milestone birthday on Oct. 12, 2020, after more than four decades in the entertainment industry. To celebrate, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the star's biggest moments in photos on and off screen. Keep reading to take a trip down memory lane…
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Kirk Thomas Cameron was born in Panorama City, California — a suburb of Los Angeles — on Oct. 12, 1970. He's the son of stay-at-home mom Barbara and retired schoolteacher dad Robert Cameron. Kirk, who has three sisters, started acting when he was 9 with a part in a breakfast cereal commercial. The talented kid was introduced to acting through a family friend who also secured him an agent. It didn't take long for Kirk to start snagging roles in TV movies and shows, like 1983's "Two Marriages" (seen here).
As a teen, Kirk Cameron became a television mainstay with parts in movies like 1981's "Goliath Awaits," 1982's "Beyond Witch Mountain," 1983's "Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land" and 1984's "More Than Murder" and "Children in the Crossfire." He was also seen in a number of TV series such as "Bret Maverick" and "Herbie, the Love Bug." After only a few years of acting, Kirk landed his first big break playing teen Mike Seaver on "Growing Pains," which debuted in 1985 right before his 15th birthday (seen here).
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Beginning in 1985, Kirk Cameron starred on "Growing Pains," a family comedy that follows psychiatrist Jason Seaver as he moves his practice to a home office and learns to take care of his three children when his journalist wife, Maggie, returns to her career. Kirk played Mike Seaver, the eldest of the Seaver children. Born with a one-track mind, Mike often choose his love for the ladies over doing well in school or keeping out of trouble. Kirk's seen here with his co-stars — Joanna Kerns as mom Maggie, Jeremy Miller as little brother Ben, Alan Thicke as dad Jason and Elizabeth Ward as sister Carol (who was replaced by actress Tracey Gold after test audiences weighed in).
It didn't take long for "Growing Pains" to catch on with viewers, and Kirk Cameron quickly becoming one of TV's biggest young stars at the time. His face was plastered on the cover of every teen magazine imaginable and adorned the bedroom walls of countless girls. The young phenom was making $50,000 a week on the show and attending school on the set, though he made it to a brick-and-mortar high school during breaks in production and graduated from Southern California's Chatsworth High School with honors in 1988.
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Over 166 episodes, millions of viewers tuned in every week between 1985 and 1992 to catch the Seaver family's latest drama on "Growing Pains," making it one of the most watched shows at the time. The hit comedy starring Alan Thicke, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, Jeremy Miller and Joanna Kerns also launched a spinoff series and two made-for-TV reunion films in the early 2000s. Decades later, there's no doubt the Seavers are still one of TV's most beloved families.
Kirk Cameron's performance on "Growing Pains" didn't just strike a chord with young women — he found much wider acclaim for his work. The actor even had a presence on the award show circuit, receiving two Golden Globe Award nominations and two People's Choice Award trophies during his time on the sitcom. Here, the dapper star can be seen walking the red carpet at the 1987 Emmy Awards.
Kirk Cameron wasn't the only famous face in the family. Younger sister Candace Cameron found success around the same time with her starring role on the TV hit "Full House" as eldest sibling D.J. Tanner. The show ran for eight seasons (and returned as the five-season reboot series "Fuller House" on Netflix from 2016 to 2020). Kirk even guest starred on "Full House" in 1988 as D.J.'s cousin (seen here).
Due to the popularity of "Growing Pains," Kirk Cameron started finding success beyond the TV series. The actor made the leap to the big screen with 1987's "Like Father Like Son" starring opposite comedian Dudley Moore. The body-switch comedy was panned by critics but became a box office hit, proving Kirk's clout carried into other mediums.
Kirk Cameron's appeal led to more films while he was still on "Growing Pains." These include 1986's "The Best of Times," co-starring Robin Williams and Kurt Russell, 1989's "Listen to Me and 1990's "The Willies." The teen superstar often rubbed elbows with Hollywood's elite like Oprah Winfrey, seen here with him at the 1988 People's Choice Awards.
While filming "Growing Pains," Kirk Cameron discovered evangelical Christianity through the family of his first girlfriend, recalling in his 2008 autobiography that a "life-changing encounter with Jesus" made him "born again." The actor's newfound beliefs even influenced what happened on his hit show — Kirk demanded that scenes be rewritten to reflect his conservative values and even had his on-screen love interest (played by Julie McCullough) fired when he learned she'd once posed for Playboy. She was replaced by actress Chelsea Noble, who Kirk began dating off screen. Kirk and Chelsea are seen here in 1986.
Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble got married on July 21, 1991, in the bride's hometown of Cheektowaga, New York. The street outside the ceremony was lined with fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their idol on his big day. However, none of the actor's "Growing Pains" co-stars were invited to the ceremony.
"Growing Pains" came to an end on April 25, 1992. Ratings had dropped off for the series toward the end (pictured), and Kirk Cameron began to grow distant from the rest of the cast. As co-star Tracey Gold recalled to the Los Angeles Times in 2000, "At the end, Kirk had drifted away from the show. When he got married during a summer hiatus up in New York, none of us were invited. He had pretty much made it clear he needed his separation from us." Kirk confirmed this in the same interview, saying, "I definitely kind of made an about-face, going toward another aspect of my life. I shifted my focus from 100% on the show to 100% on [my new life] and left 0% on the show — and even the friendships that were a part of that show. If I could go back, I think I could make decisions that were less inadvertently hurtful to the cast — like talking and explaining to them why I just wanted to have my family at my wedding."
While sister Candace Cameron continued her reign on "Full House," Kirk Cameron (seen with her here in 1989) decided to step away from Hollywood after "Growing Pains" finished its run. He lost touch with his former co-stars and made every effort with his wife to focus on starting a life away from the entertainment industry, as he explained to the Los Angeles Times in 2000. "Chelsea and I were ready to start a life outside of a television show, outside of Hollywood — outside of the circus I'd been in for seven years." For Kirk, acting became less of a priority as his religion took more of his time and devotion.
In 1995, Kirk Cameron returned to acting in the title role in the short-lived sitcom "Kirk," which found the actor playing Kirk Hartman, a 24-year-old who has to raise his own siblings. Wife Chelsea Noble also starred on the series, playing his girlfriend. Kirk (seen here with Chelsea in 1995) also took lead parts in the Disney television movies "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" in 1995 and "You Lucky Dog" in 1998. During this time, the couple began expanding their family by adopting children, welcoming son Jack in 1996, daughter Isabella in 1997, daughter Anna in 1998 and son Luke in 2000.
In 2000, Kirk Cameron reunited with the rest of the "Growing Pains" cast for the TV film "The Growing Pains Movie." The reunion proved to be a positive experience for the star, who told the Los Angeles Times at the time, "One of the best parts of doing this reunion was to be able to just reconnect again in a really nice way. It's a lot less crazy of a time than when we were teenagers. It's an opportunity to begin new friendships as adults, and I'm really looking forward to that." Any bad blood between the co-stars seemed to have evaporated by then, and the film was such a success, the sequel "Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers" aired in 2004.
Kirk Cameron and wife Chelsea Noble kicked off the 2000s by welcoming their first biological children. Daughter Olivia Rose was born in 2001 and son James Thomas arrived in 2003. In 2002, the evangelical Christian founded the ministry The Way of the Master. The organization produces a television show, a radio show, books, an online course in evangelism, small-group training courses and a website. Kirk has co-hosted the TV show "The Way of the Master" since 2003; it went on to win the National Religious Broadcasters' best program award for two consecutive years. He and Chelsea also created the Firefly Foundation, which runs a summer camp providing vacations to terminally ill children and their families. In 2008, Kirk released his first book, "Still Growing: An Autobiography," describing his transformation from Hollywood actor to devoted Christian.
Since the "Growing Pains" reunion films, Kirk Cameron has solely pursued faith-based projects like the "Left Behind" trilogy, in which he starred from 2001 to 2005, as well as 2008's "Fireproof" (pictured). The firefighting drama was a huge success at the box office that grossed more $33 million — which delivered a 600% profit. It was the best earning independent film of 2008. The role provided a conflict for the star, who had his wife disguised as the film's lead actress so he could kiss her when the script called for a kissing scene. "I have a commitment not to kiss any other woman," he told "Today" in 2008. "So when I'm kissing my wife, we're actually husband and wife honoring marriage behind the scenes."
Over the years, Kirk Cameron has come under fire for being outspoken about his conservative beliefs. During a 2012 interview with CNN, he called homosexuality "unnatural" and gay marriage "detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization." The comments drew criticism from former co-stars Tracey Gold and Alan Thicke as well as rebukes from GLAAD, LGBTQ+ activists and a slew of celebrities who tweeted their displeasure. Kirk responded to the backlash via ABC News, explaining, "I spoke as honestly as I could, but some people believe my responses were not loving toward those in the gay community. That is not true. I can assuredly say that it's my life's mission to love all people. I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years, without being slandered, accused of hate speech and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square." Kirk is pictured here speaking during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2012.
Kirk Cameron's run of faith-based films hasn't slowed down despite the controversy surrounding his beliefs. He narrated the documentaries "Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure" in 2012 and "Unstoppable " in 2013 and he starred in the 2014 family film "Mercy Rule" as a father who tries to save his small business from lobbyists while supporting his son becoming a little league baseball pitcher. Also in 2014, Kirk had the lead part in the holiday comedy "Saving Christmas" in which he played a fictionalized version of himself trying to convince his fictional brother-in-law that Christmas is still a Christian holiday. "Saving Christmas" (seen here) was ripped by critics, getting a rare 0% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and winning six Razzie Awards (including worst picture). The actor blamed an "atheist conspiracy" for the frosty reception.
Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble's marriage has remained strong as they've raised six kids who are now all in their teens and 20s. Kirk (seen here with Chelsea during the Third Annual KLOVE Fan Awards in Nashville in May 2015) explained the joy of adoption in his book, writing, "They're just my kids. Literally, I forget who's adopted and who's not. It really doesn't seem like that. They're my kids, I'm their dad and Chelsea's their mom. It's just a great, wonderful way to not only have a family yourself but meet a real need in the lives of so many of these orphans." Their oldest son, Jack, got married in 2019 while oldest daughter Bella wed in 2020. In a 2019 YouTube video, Bella said that she always valued and loved how significant family has been to her parents, adding that Kirk does everything to show to his family that they always come first.
As he continues to balance his ministry work with acting and watch his kids start families of their own, Kirk Cameron has stayed busy. He starred in the 2017 film "Extraordinary" and guest starred on his sister's hit Netflix series, "Fuller House," in 2019. Explaining his conservative film choices, he told "Today" in 2008, "In a day and age where marriage is falling apart, we want to make movies and projects that really uphold and have a high view of that which is beautiful and wonderful in our culture." In 2020, Kirk — seen here in New York City in 2018 — hosted the public affairs series "Think. Pray. Vote."