Famed for their starring role in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse were two of the noughties’ biggest teen stars. But the two suddenly gave up fame with little explanation. And the reason why may leave you surprised.
The Sprouse boys seemed destined for stardom from a young age. Born in 1992, the twins won their first acting role in a diaper commercial aged just eight months old. And while it may have been a small start, the babies proved adorable enough to pique the interest of casting agents.
Later that year, Dylan and Cole landed their first major gig on the sitcom Grace Under Fire. Alternating the role of Patrick Kelly between them – owing to Californian child labor laws – the two appeared in the series from 1993 to its 1998 cancellation.
After Grace Under Fire’s end, the twins landed a number of high-profile roles. For example, they played Adam Sandler’s adopted son in 1999’s Big Daddy. Meanwhile, Cole played Ross Geller’s son Ben in several episodes of Friends.
Furthermore, the boys’ hard work had not gone unnoticed in Hollywood. Disney producer Danny Kallis was impressed with their potential and came to them in the early 2000s with an idea for a show. Little did they know that his proposal would change their lives forever…
Debuting on the Disney Channel on March 18, 2005, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody was an instant hit. Partially based on Dylan and Cole’s lives, the series followed Zack – Dylan – and Cody – Cole – and their misadventures in the fictitious Tipton Hotel.
Featuring a young and talented cast, The Suite Life… showcased rising actors like Brenda Song and Ashley Tisdale and catapulted Dylan and Cole to phenomenal levels of success. In fact, the pair even launched their own clothing and magazine lines in 2005 while aged just 13.
Thanks to their success on the show, the Sprouse twins became involved in new and exciting projects. Over the course of the decade, the boys helmed movies such as 2007’s The Prince and the Pauper and 2008’s Adventures in Appletown. Their success even inspired a spin-off show, The Suite Life on Deck, in 2008.
Despite everything, though, both Dylan and Cole seemed to be growing uncomfortable with fame. “It is kind of scary how fast everything is moving,” Dylan told The New York Times in 2006.
After six years of The Suite Life… and The Suite Life on Deck, Zack and Cody said their goodbyes in 2011. Following the series finale, co-stars Ashley Tisdale and Brenda Song kept acting in projects like Hellcats and New Girl. But the Sprouse twins would disappear from our screens.
Rather than transition toward more adult roles, the brothers all but vanished from Hollywood. Unlike their co-stars, Dylan and Cole stayed off the radar and made neither film nor TV appearances. To their adoring fans, it seemed like the two had given up on acting altogether.
During the pair’s absence rumors began to circulate that the twins – like many a child star – were suffering financial hardship. To add insult to injury, pictures started spreading on social media in 2013 showing a then-21-year-old Dylan working in an NYC restaurant.
As telling as they looked, Dylan was quick to deny that the photos proved any monetary problems. “To clear up the air… I did not take this job because I ‘lost all my money,’” he wrote on Tumblr. “I am financially secure and took this job as a way to primarily feed my over-bountiful video game addiction.”
However, Dylan’s rebuttal did nothing to quell fan speculation. And things went from bad to worse when nude photos of the actor were leaked online in the following months. Certainly, it felt like a sure sign that the boys’ careers were on a downward trajectory.
Fortunately, there is a happy ending to the Sprouse brothers’ tale. In fact, neither Dylan nor Cole had decided to give up on their acting careers. Instead, they took time off to study, respectively, video game design and humanities and archaeology at New York University.
Speaking on the YouTube channel Conversations with Natalia in 2013, Dylan admitted that they had pursued college degrees to escape the child star curse. “Historically, Disney Channel stars don’t survive well outside the Disney environment,” the actor explained. “We decided that we should go and get a higher education [and] give time for people to forget about us.”
Moreover, Cole admitted to Entertainment Weekly in 2016 that their early career had burnt them out. “There was a feeling of machination. I felt like an automaton,” he said. “I needed to take a break and step outside myself… I needed a dose of reality.”
Nevertheless, the two haven’t been entirely AWOL from the public consciousness. Indeed, the two are prolific tweeters and have even used social media to make fun of the rumors about them. “Wardrobe can’t find pants with enough d**k room,” Dylan sarcastically tweeted in 2016 in response to an article titled “Why Hollywood Won’t Cast The Sprouse Twins Anymore.”
In 2015 the twins graduated with honors from NYU, and since then it’s been back to business as usual. Recently, Cole has returned to acting as Jughead in The CW’s Riverdale. Meanwhile, Dylan is set to revive his film career in the upcoming Dismissed.
So, although they appeared set for a life of obscurity, Dylan and Cole have seemingly avoided the pitfalls of child stardom. With both brothers lining up new and exciting projects on the horizon, we can’t wait for what the future has in store for these talented twins.