Tuesday, January 15, 2008

OBT: Brad Renfro

Troubled Actor Brad Renfro Dies at 25
Found Dead in His Los Angeles Home at Age 25
By JACOB ADELMAN, The Associated Press, LOS ANGELES

Actor Brad Renfro, whose career began promisingly with a childhood role in "The Client" but rapidly faded as he struggled with drugs and alcohol, was found dead Tuesday in his home. He was 25.

Paramedics pronounced him dead at 9 a.m., said Craig Harvey, chief investigator for the Los Angeles County coroner's office. The cause of death was not immediately determined, Harvey said, but an autopsy could be conducted as early as Wednesday.

Renfro had reportedly been drinking with friends the evening before his death, Harvey said.

Renfro's lawyer, Richard Kaplan, said he did not know whether the death was connected to any problems with addiction.

"He was working hard on his sobriety," Kaplan said. "He was doing well. He was a nice person."

Renfro recently completed a role in "The Informers," a film adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel that stars Winona Ryder, Brandon Routh and Billy Bob Thornton.

"Brad was an exceptionally talented young actor and our time spent with him was thoroughly enjoyable," Marco Weber, president of the film's production house, Senator Entertainment, said in a statement.

The actor served 10 days in jail in May 2006 after pleading no contest to driving while intoxicated and guilty to attempted possession of heroin.

The latter charge stemmed from his arrest in Los Angeles' Skid Row area, when he attempted to buy heroin from an undercover officer in 2005.

For several years he was better known for that drug bust and the resulting criminal case than for acting.

After one court appearance, he talked to reporters about drug rehabilitation, saying he was "tired of paying the consequences" for drinking and drug use and eager to get clean.

"It's definitely been an eye-opener," he said of his rehabilitation program.

Other run-ins with the law included a 1998 charge of cocaine and marijuana possession, for which he avoided jail time in a plea deal. He was also placed on probation in January 2001 and ordered to pay $4,000 for repairs to a 45-foot yacht he and a friend tried to steal in Florida in August 2000.

He was arrested again in May 2001 and charged with underage drinking, violating the terms of his probation, and was ordered into alcohol rehabilitation the following March.

A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Renfro's film career began when he was 12, acting opposite Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones in "The Client." His other credits included "Sleepers," "Deuces Wild," "Apt Pupil" and "The Jacket."


Brad Renfro, Former Child Movie Actor, Dies at 25
by MATT ZOLLER SEITZ,
New York Times, Published: January 16, 2008

Brad Renfro, the former child star who played a witness to a mob lawyer’s suicide in the 1994 legal thriller “The Client” and a suburban youth tutored in evil by an elderly Nazi war criminal in the 1998 film “Apt Pupil,” was found dead Tuesday morning in his Los Angeles home. He was 25.

Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
Brad Renfro in 2005.


Mr. Renfro’s girlfriend discovered his body, and the Los Angeles Police Department did not suspect foul play, The Los Angeles Times reported.

In recent years, Mr. Renfro was known as much for his legal troubles as for his acting career. He was charged with marijuana and cocaine possession in 1998, avoiding jail because of a plea bargain, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Renfro was an admitted heroin and methadone user who was photographed being arrested by Los Angeles police officers during a Christmas 2005 sweep of that city’s Skid Row. He was sentenced to three years’ probation for attempted possession of heroin and entered a drug rehabilitation program.

His career was short, but busy and varied. He was plucked from obscurity to play a frightened but resilient witness opposite Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones in “The Client,” an adaptation of a John Grisham best seller.

In a 1994 profile of Mr. Renfro in The New York Times, Joel Schumacher, director of “The Client,” said he was looking for “a tough and savvy survivor, a kid with an authentic Southern accent, a kid from a trailer park, like the character in the movie.”

He found Mr. Renfro, then all of 10, through the Knoxville Police Department. He had a reputation as a troublemaker and had recently played a drug dealer in a school production of an antidrug play. The film’s casting director, Mali Finn, said she intended to let Mr. Renfro audition for 10 to 15 minutes, but ended up letting the tape run for an hour. Mr. Schumacher told The Times that when he viewed the tape, “I was struck by the maturity and sadness of his eyes,” adding: “I couldn’t believe a 10-year-old that good-looking and smart who had a difficult life could actually act on the screen. It was too good to believe.”

Over the next decade Mr. Renfro carved out a niche playing inarticulate, vulnerable, alienated youths in everything from glossy Hollywood blockbusters to hardscrabble independent dramas. His acting was naturalistic and emotionally transparent; he played humiliation and frustration with disarming and sometimes upsetting frankness.

As Todd Bowden, the title character of “Apt Pupil,” a Stephen King adaptation by the filmmaker Bryan Singer, Mr. Renfro answered the spidery malevolence of his co-star Ian McKellen with a roiling, implosive blankness. Janet Maslin wrote in The Times that Mr. Renfro “put a diabolically wholesome face on Todd’s budding viciousness.”

In the 2001 Larry Clark drama “Bully,” about bored, amoral teenagers drawn into a murder conspiracy, Mr. Renfro was affecting as Marty Puccio, a sexually confused surfer seeking revenge against the title character (Nick Stahl), his peer group’s abusive alpha-male leader.

In the profile published before “The Client,” opened, the 12-year-old actor was asked how appearing in the film would change his life. “I’ll always be Brad Renfro, born on July 25, 1982,” he said. “Nothing’s going to change that. It won’t be any different.”

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