Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Brad Renfro

Full Biography
Child actor Brad Renfro got his start after being discovered by Joel Schumacher and cast as the protagonist in the adaptation of John Grisham's legal thriller "The Client" (1994). Charismatic and magnetic onscreen, with an alluring combination of knowingness and vulnerability, Renfro was chosen in part because of his background as an underprivileged and streetwise boy from Knoxville, TN. Deemed a natural talent by a Warner Bros. acting coach, Renfro held his own admirably in the film alongside heavy hitters Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. In 1995, he took a co-starring role in "The Cure,” a touching family feature starring Joseph Mazzello as Dexter, a young boy who contracts AIDS through a tainted blood transfusion. Town hysteria leads to the child's friendless existence until he meets Erik (Renfro), a neighborhood tough who joins Dexter on a perilous journey down the Mississippi River. A natural in roles that utilized his innate “bad boy” charms, Renfro was a fine choice to play Huckleberry Finn in "Tom and Huck" (1995). While the onscreen pairing of Renfro and TV star Jonathan Taylor Thomas was the stuff teen magazine dreams are made of, the young actor was less than pleased with the production, believing it to be disappointingly bland and lacking edge.
The same could certainly not be said for the gritty drama "Sleepers” (1996), in which Renfro played the young incarnation of Brad Pitt's character Michael, one of several teens savagely abused at the hands of a sadistic guard (Kevin Bacon) while in juvenile detention. A starring role as a young Hungarian immigrant boy who apprentices himself to a payola-driven radio DJ paired him again with Bacon the following year in Guy Ferland's acclaimed "Telling Lies in America” (1997). Renfro's twisted turn in "Apt Pupil" (1998) featured him as a schoolboy whose obsession with Nazism and discovery that his elderly neighbor Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen) was, in fact, a concentration camp guard living undetected. Through blackmail, the youngster forces the older man to relate his brutal first-hand tales of the Holocaust, leading to the two developing a mutually predatory relationship. Both Renfro and McKellen were particularly chilling as the crafty manipulators in Bryan Singer's adaptation of the Stephen King novella.

While at one point the darling of the young teen set – due in no small part to his brooding good looks and cool self-confidence – of his six films released in the 1990s, only "Tom and Huck" and "The Cure" catered to that particular fan base. Meanwhile, his penchant for adult material and atypical role choices continued through his career. He delivered a powerful performance as a troubled Florida youth who turns on his abusive best friend in "Bully" (2001), directed by Larry Clark; then played it cool as a convenience store clerk uninterested in two offbeat high school grads (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) in “Ghost World” (2001). After taking his first teen comedy role in the odd and decidedly dark "Happy Campers" (2002), Renfro co-starred in "Skipped Parts" (2001), a 1960s-set story of a misfit mother and her teenage son banished to a remote town by the woman's rich and overbearing father. He then had a featured turn in "Tart" (2002), a period drama following the fast-living 1980s exploits of a group of Upper East Side teens. Renfro followed with a starkly comic performance as a leader of a Brooklyn street gang in the otherwise lame “Deuces Wild” (2002).

Despite a fast rise to the top and a promising career heading into adulthood, Renfro suffered from a series of legal problems stemming from drug and alcohol addiction that frittered away his career. In June 1998, Renfro was arrested in Knox County, TN on suspicion of marijuana and cocaine possession. He later entered no plea after agreeing to submit to random drug screens in exchange for prosecutors declining to pursue charges. While he managed to stay clean for a spell, he landed in more hot water in August 2000 after getting arrested for grand theft and criminal mischief – he had tried to steal a yacht valued at over $175,000 in Fort Lauderdale, FL while on location shooting “Bully.” Renfro was released on $10,000 bond, was later sentenced to two years probation, and forced to pay the owner over $4000 in damages. Then in March 2001, he was arrested in his hometown of Knoxville for underage drinking, but managed to avoid serving jail time for violating probation because officials said that he tested negative for drugs and alcohol.

The actor was in trouble less than a year later after getting arrested for driving without a license and public intoxication in Knoxville, TN – a violation of his probation. After turning himself over to authorities, Renfro was jailed by a Broward Circuit judge, then later ordered to complete a three-month substance abuse program. The actor stayed out of trouble for the next few years, while managing to get his career back on track a bit. After a starring role in the straight-to-video action thriller “The Job” (2003), Renfro had a supporting role as the mysterious Stranger in “The Jacket” (2005), a supernatural thriller about a Gulf War veteran (Adrien Brody) whose mind is propelled into the future while his body is confined to a mental institution. But just as things were starting to look up for Renfro, the actor was in trouble again. On Dec. 22, 2005, he was arrested in downtown Los Angeles, CA in a sting operation for allegedly trying to buy heroin on Skid Row. He later pled guilty and was again sentenced to enter a drug treatment program. After appearing in “10th and Wolf” (2006), Renfro fell off the radar, only to reemerge on Jan. 15, 2008 when it was reported that the actor had died from unknown causes in his Los Angeles home. The tragic star had been filming “The Informers” with Billy Bob Thornton and Winona Ryder. He was 25.

Actor Sometimes Credited As:
Brad Barron Renfro

Tokyo International Film Festival Award Best Actor "Apt Pupil" 1998
Young Artist Award Best Performance by a Young Actor Starring in a Motion Picture "The Client" 1995
YoungStar Award Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Drama Film "The Cure" 1995

2006 Starred in "10th and Wolf" an indie film based on a story by Bobby Moresco and Chazz Palminteri
2005 Cast in the psychological thriller "The Jacket"
2001 Acted alongside Jennifer Jason Leigh in the 1960s-set coming of age drama "Skipped Parts"
2001 Had leading role of a troubled Florida teen who turns on his abusive friend in Larry Clark's "Bully"; based on the 1993 murder of Bobby Kent and adapted from the book Bully: A True Story of High Sc
2001 Co-starred with Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson in Terry Zwigoff's "Ghost World"
1998 Starred as a high school student obsessively fasinated with Nazism in Bryan Singer's "Apt Pupil"
1997 Played a teenage boy embroiled in the 1960s radio payola scandal in Guy Ferland's "Telling Lies in America"
1996 Portrayed Brad Pitt's character as a teenager in the gritty drama "Sleepers"
1995 Played the neighborhood toughguy who befriends a stigmatized HIV-positive youngster in "The Cure"
1995 Played Huckleberry Finn opposite Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Tom Sawyer in Disney's "Tom and Huck"
1994 Feature debut, a starring role as a young targeted witness, in Joel Schumacher's "The Client"
Raised by his paternal grandmother in Knoxville, TN
Acted in school productions sponsored by DARE; a program that deals with the dangers of drugs

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