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But he did not expect Renfro, who’d gained a considerable amount of weight, to reference his addiction quite so blithely."He jokingly told me he'd put down the spoon and picked up the fork," Altschul, now 55, told Buzz Feed News. 15, 2008, Renfro's girlfriend found his body in his Los Angeles apartment; the coroner report stated he died from "acute heroin/morphine intoxication." He was 25.
It had been years since Renfro had delivered a performance that caught the public's attention, and at the time, he was treated as yet another addition to the mournful legacy of former child stars — Dana Plato, River Phoenix, Judy Garland — whose lives collapsed from Hollywood darling to death by overdose.
(Renfro’s mother and paternal grandmother — who served as his guardian for most of his childhood — have both died; despite repeated attempts, Buzz Feed News could not locate his father for comment.) Renfro became an overnight star because he was a rowdy kid with natural talent who stood apart from more seasoned child actors.
But 10 years after Renfro's death, interviews with Renfro's former colleagues make plain that the mechanisms in place to protect child actors — mechanisms compromised by conflicts of interest and a dependence on parents and guardians — were scarcely capable of protecting kids like Renfro, and largely remain so today.
Renfro told a detective who arrested him that he was using heroin and methadone.
He ultimately went to a drug rehabilitation program and pleaded guilty to attempted possession of heroin. Renfro’s former attorney, Blair Berk, said Tuesday: “Brad was a really gifted young man.
He got his big break when producers of “The Client” -- the adaptation of the John Grisham novel -- conducted a national search to find a fresh face to play the lead role of a boy who is put in peril after he overhears a conversation about a murder.
Dennis Bowman — the retired Knoxville police officer who oversaw Renfro's D. Renfro's ability to age up made him especially appealing for roles that required a world-wise maturity, be it the iconic Mark Twain vagabond Huckleberry Finn in 1995's Tom and Huck, a New York City tough kid scraping through a juvenile prison in 1996's Sleepers, or a high schooler obsessed with the Holocaust in Apt Pupil. We think you're really cool.' But it was like, 'I dream of waking up next to you.'"Renfro had just turned 12.But it also meant that it could be easy to forget just how young Renfro actually was."He was 15 or 16 or something I think when we were doing that job," Tom and Huck production designer Gemma Jackson told Buzz Feed News when asked about her immediate memories of Renfro. He had a girlfriend who was years older than him." Reminded that Renfro was actually just 13 while making the film, Jackson paused. Despite having zero real acting experience before getting cast in The Client, Renfro took naturally to life on a major studio movie. While other child actors would spend more time in their trailers with their families, he'd wander and ask questions of department heads about set construction or costume design.Film sets can often feel like ad hoc families, but in Renfro’s case, it became almost literal. "He was just obviously screaming for someone to establish some kind of boundaries for him, something that never happened in his life." (Harris died in 2013.)There are several authority figures on a movie set: the director, the producers, and the lead actors, of course, as well as the first assistant director, the person responsible for keeping the production moving and on schedule.When the two clapped eyes on each other for the first time in a decade, what Altschul saw shocked him.He was familiar with Renfro’s struggles with drug use, including an infamous 2005 arrest for attempting to buy heroin in Skid Row in Los Angeles.