Tuesday, January 15, 2008

R.I.P. Brad Renfro, 1982-2008

I'm normally the type that always tries to cut an awkward or emotional moment with a joke, but I was so saddened to hear about Brad Renfro's death today that I can't even come up with a bad one-liner at the expense of Happy Campers.

Although he never really starred in anything that could be called a pure chick flick (at least not while I was still paying attention - maybe one of the 'B' movies he made later in his career?), Brad Renfro was in many ways single-handedly responsible for my conversion to girly movies, and girly-ness, as documented in my first-ever post on this blog. When I was 13, I decided that I was in love with him. I bought The Client, The Cure, and yes, even Tom and Huck, all on VHS. When I was 14, I snuck into Sleepers. At 15, I plastered my locker and my bedroom with photos of Brad, mostly cut out of Bop, Sixteen and Tiger Beat magazines that I had bought on the sly. (I was supposed to be a bad-ass, remember?)

But see, that was the thing about Brad Renfro - he was such a bad-ass himself, even while posing for the cover of Tiger Beat, that I didn't feel like a big GIRL when I was crushing on him. I mean, the guy acted on film for the first time ever opposite Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones, right? And totally held his own. (That scene where he takes the cigarette out of Sarandon's mouth and starts smoking it himself...? Wow. I was sold.) He seemed like such a legit talent, I figured the teen-dream phase would pass and eventually I would be crushing on a real actor with real cred. So yes, while I mocked the girls who had lockers full of Barry Watson or Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, I swooned over pictures of Brad Renfro.

Sadly, of course, he went the classic child-star route before he even made it out of high school: drugs, drugs, a faded career, and more drugs. And for a few years now I've hoped he might resurface one day, Drew Barrymore-style - clean himself up and make a comeback as an adult. It's a real shame that we'll never get to see what he might have made out of himself, given the time and the help he needed.

I remember, back when I read every word written about Brad Renfro, someone or other compared him to James Dean. They were talking about his good looks and rebel persona at the time, but today that's turned out to be a sad comparison indeed.

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