The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Brad Renfro Day


‘Brad Renfro’s whole career started, improbably enough, because as an 11-year-old fifth-grader, he’d been difficult in a Drug Abuse Resistance Education class taught by a retired policeman. “He was absolutely your problem child,” says Dennis Bowman. “The very first day, I kicked him out of class.” Bowman grew to like Renfro but said that “he was still a piece of work as far as being out of control.”

‘By many accounts, he came from a troubled background. His dad, a factory worker, and his mom split up when he was a toddler, and his mom deposited him on the Knoxville inner-city steps of his paternal grandmother. Says Bowman, “The grandmother was trying her best to raise a kid who was taking advantage of the situation and creating a lot of stress on her.”

‘At the time, the late casting director Mali Finn was conducting a search for a kid to star in “The Client,” the movie version of the John Grisham legal thriller about a Southern trailer-park kid who winds up embroiled in a Mafia hit. “We wanted that kid in the principal’s office. That endearing, mischievous boy that may be lying to you, may not be telling you the truth, but you’re still charmed by him,” says casting director Emily Schweber, Finn’s associate at the time. When one of Finn’s letters describing their search arrived at the Knoxville Police Department, Bowman immediately thought of Renfro.

‘After auditioning him in her hotel room, Finn called Schweber and said, “I found him.” Both Finn and Joel Schumacher later called J.J. Harris, who now manages such stars as Charlize Theron, to check out their child lead. Harris flew to the North Carolina set to watch Renfro work and was charmed. “You just wanted to take care of this boy. He was a gorgeous little boy. Rough-and-tumble. Very self-aware,” she says. “He’d say things like, ‘Nobody can put up with me ’cause I’m too hot to handle.’ ”

‘Adds Harris, “He was just obviously screaming for someone to establish some kind of boundaries for him, something that never happened in his life.”

‘When Bowman finally saw “The Client,” he thought Renfro “wasn’t acting. Brad played himself. He had these street smarts and the swagger of a 19- or 20-year-old. If you met somebody like that now, your first reaction would be, ‘What a punk.’ But you scrape away all these layers, you think this is a 12-year-old trying to act tough.”

‘Even then there were signs of addiction issues. Renfro could be sneaky. As one who knew him well noted that any bottles of booze would invariably disappear when Renfro was around. Still, he managed to launch his career, flying from Knoxville to Los Angeles, often by himself, for auditions. The assistants at his agency, United Talent Agency, would drive him to meetings with casting directors, and the rest of the time he’d mostly cruise the agency halls and flirt with all the women. “This wasn’t a bad kid – this was a really emotionally abandoned person,” says Harris.

‘His vulnerability combined with a tough persona entranced Hollywood. He was cast as a compassionate roughneck who befriends a kid suffering from AIDS in “The Cure,” and as Huck Finn in “Tom and Huck.” “He was exactly what you would expect – a brooding, intense, rebellious fellow,” says “Tom and Huck” producer Larry Mark. “He got a kick out of not going the straight and narrow.”

‘In “Sleepers,” Barry Levinson’s drama about four neighborhood kids who are abused by sadistic guards in juvenile prison, he played the younger version of Brad Pitt’s character. Knowing of his wildness, Levinson mandated that Renfro be accompanied by a minder 24 hours a day. Levinson later told a reporter, “He was fraught with demons and needed help.”

‘In “Apt Pupil,” Renfro’s last major studio movie, he played a compassionless A-student entranced by a former Nazi commandant – played by Ian McKellen – living incognito in the suburbs. “I knew he’d been wrestling for years with different problems,” says director Bryan Singer. “But on workdays, he was always focused and into it. Quite professional.”

‘But off-screen, there could be a manic energy and a radiating neediness. “You could tell he didn’t have any sort of adult guidance. People couldn’t help themselves but become unofficial guardians of him,” says producer Don Murphy.

‘In 1998, the year “Apt Pupil” was released, Renfro was busted for cocaine and marijuana, beginning what became a long odyssey through the legal system, with a half-dozen arrests.

‘Although Clark had a minder staying with Renfro during the “Bully” production in the summer of 2000, the actor climbed out a second-story window and stole down to a nearby marina. According to Clark, Renfro “met some coke dealer and got (messed) up.” He hot-wired a yacht and gunned it – except he forgot to untie the boat. Renfro was arrested and charged with grand theft. He ultimately pleaded out and was sentenced to a fine and two years’ probation. But, Clark says, “He was so good you would kind of forgive him for being a (screw)-up – for a minute.”

‘Yet, after causing a delay on “Bully,” it became hard for Renfro to get insurance, says Harris, and hence harder for him to land parts. “It got to a place where I ran out of options,” says the agent, who’d seen him through two stints at rehab and numerous futile conversations about staying clean.

‘To those in Hollywood, he inevitably seemed worse when he returned from his home in Knoxville. Or when he wasn’t working, and there wasn’t a Hollywood-designated minder watching over him. “He wasn’t good at that going-home bit, going back to his life” after the social activity of a movie set, adds Guy Ferland. As an associate producer on “The Client,” Ferland would help keep Renfro healthily occupied in off hours, and he also directed him in “Telling Lies in America.” “I’m not sure Brad really liked being alone. There was always some party, whatever he needed to do to keep the energy going.”

‘Renfro quit J.J. Harris around 2001 and never spoke to her again, although he continued to work on smaller films, little seen, sometimes low-rent indies such as “Deuces Wild” and “The Job.”

‘In 2006, he spent 10 days in jail for DUI and heroin possession. “He was very conscious that he was alone in the world and didn’t have the kind of family and support system that others had,” says his former lawyer Blair Berk.

‘As recently as last June, a judge declared he’d violated his probation by not enrolling in a long-term drug-treatment program, which he subsequently did. “We thought he turned the corner over the last six months. He’d been clean,” says another of his lawyers, Richard Kaplan.

‘Renfro died from an accidental overdose of heroin, Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said. A Los Angeles roommate found him dead in his bed. Two days earlier, he’d had an obscene tattoo applied to his chest.’ — Rachel Abramowitz





Brad Renfro @ IMDb
Hollywood Wanted An Edgy Child Actor. When He Spiraled, They Couldn’t Help.
An interview with Brad Renfro on the occassion of his passing
Communicating with Deceased Actor Brad Renfro
Brad Renfro: Some celebrities fall into cycle of destruction
Susan Sarandon on Brad Renfro
Actor Brad Renfro left out of Oscar memorial tribute
‘Twilight’s’ Robert Pattinson turned down James Franco’s Brad Renfro tribute movie
A Glimpse Into Brad Renfro’s Life Via MySpace
BRUCE LABRUCE, Brad Renfro w/ His Grandmother (Toronto), 2000



Brad Renfro Playing Guitar

Brad Renfro h264

James Franco – Brad Renfro Forever

Brad Renfro Last Interview October 2007


Interview (1998)
by Dennis Cooper


Dennis Cooper: Your agent said you’re not feeling well.

Brad Renfro: It’s just stress. Being in L.A. does this to me.

DC: You live in Knoxville, which looks very nonstressful in pictures.

BR: Yeah, it’s cool, but it’s getting violent these days.

DC: What’s up?

BR: Well, this guy got shot last week outside a club, and he died. A friend of mine works at this café right by there. Luckily, she wasn’t there at the time, but the café’s windows got shot out. So it’s not too scary to live there yet, but for such a small town, that seems pretty hard-core.

DC: So where would you move, if you moved?

BR: Not here, that’s for sure. You can be young and stupid anywhere, but staying in Knoxville keeps me away from the business itself, the whole grind—everybody going out to eat and such. It keeps me real. ’Cause out here, there isn’t much reality. There really isn’t. That’s why Tennessee Williams stayed in the South.

DC: So you don’t have any Leonardo DiCaprio envy?

BR: No, no. He’s a great actor, and now he can’t do anything. It used to be I’d see him all over the damn place, and he wouldn’t get too bothered. But now, phew. Man.

DC: Talk about demystifying fame.

BR: No shit. I don’t know if the money would be worth it, either. Because he does make bank. He makes a lot of money. Hell, I haven’t even made a million dollars. But is $20 million worth no life? I don’t think so.

DC: You and he are both top dogs in the Tiger Beat scene. Does that have any value for you?

BR: No. I’m quite flattered, but I don’t know what to think of it. I don’t strive to be a teen idol, you know? But the teen-idol thing is probably why I’m able to pick and choose the movies I want, because I have those fans. Who says those teens don’t have the right idea? You’re always going to have those who look at you because you have interesting looks or whatever.

DC: It’s not like your films cater to that audience. For the most part, they’re fairly heavy. I guess Tom and Huck is kind of the oddball in your oeuvre, as it were.

BR: Yeah, well, I don’t regret making that movie, because my little sister loves it. It’s just that I thought I was making an American classic, and it was very Disney family. If you really watch, you can see that I’m not in the same damn movie as the other actors. I’m all hard-core and shit, and it seems like I’m bigger than the rest of them. There’s an edge there that doesn’t really fit, but to me, that was Huck. Who’s to say it was tobacco in his pipe, you know?

DC: Disney didn’t want a hard-core Huck?

BR: Not at all. It was constant friction. I just did it and got through it, because it was my job. But, you know, I maybe showered six times the whole damn shoot. That’s where I got this bad reputation, you know. How I’m, like, whatever…

DC: Trouble.

BR: Yeah, trouble.

DC: But you’re not?

BR: No, I’m not. I’m real. Real only seems like trouble if you’re not real yourself. Honest to God.

DC: You seem drawn to characters who have moral dilemmas.

BR: As in, like…?

DC: I think I’ve seen all your films, and from The Client through The Cure, Telling Lies in America and now Apt Pupil, you seem to play the wide-eyed kid with a secret dark side.

BR: Well, that’s me, but that’s also mankind. Someone asked me about Apt Pupil—you know, “Brad, are you saying people are evil?” And I go, “All people have evil natures.” And they go, “What about babies?” And I go, “What about when babies turn two and start fighting in the crib over a toy?”

DC: Babies are purely selfish beings.

BR: Exactly. They are purely selfish. I love children, but….It’s human nature to constantly be in a fight with your own being.

DC: So Apt Pupil must have played into your interests.

BR: Definitely, definitely. I was really excited to get that part. It was the only really cool film at the time. Well, there was that and American History X, as far as what was available to someone my age. And Bryan Singer’s great. Ian McKellen’s a genius to me.

DC: Your styles are so different, though. His acting is so capital-B British, really organized, and—

BR: I’m so off the wall? Yeah, I learned so much from Ian McKellen, but it wasn’t like I could learn the craft of acting. I’m sure you’ve heard of doing something and not knowing how you do it? That’s pretty much where I come from. What interested me about him was how he handled people. He makes everyone feel so comfortable. I tried to learn that from him, because that’s something I need to learn.

DC: How do you approach acting?

BR: Just saying the words and believing them. I literally believe what’s going on is really happening.

DC: Is it like fantasizing?

BR: Pretty much. I’m a person who doesn’t show a ton of emotion until it’s time. I ball too many things up—to the point where I cry for no reason. And I have to sit down and go, “What the hell is this for? Oh yeah, right.

DC: So I guess I have to ask you about the whole Apt Pupil shower-scene controversy.

BR: I was there.

DC: A number of the extras, who are basically your age, said they were ogled by gay crew members during the shooting of that scene and consider it a form of molestation.

BR: I was there. I didn’t notice anything.

DC: So you don’t support the boys who brought the lawsuit against the film?

BR: No. As far as I know, it got thrown out of court anyway.

DC: Are you into politics?

BR: No. I don’t care.

DC: So you have nothing to say about the whole Clinton-Lewinsky thing?

BR: Oh, I can say a little something about that. I think the only place where Clinton went wrong was in being married. I just think he’s a man of the times. Fuck it. If I put myself in his shoes, I would have lied like a motherfucker too. And there’s the whole “If she only swallowed, none of this would have happened” jokes. But I shouldn’t get into that, I guess.

DC: Are you religious?

BR: I’m a firm believer in God. I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for God.

DC: You never question that?

BR: Okay, here’s a great Bible verse. Jesus is sitting and eating with politicians and sinners, you know, one of them asks one of his disciples, “Why does Jesus sit there and eat with sinners and such?” And Jesus turns and says, “He who is not sick has no need for the physician, and vice versa.” I think when we’re all at our rock bottom, there’s nothing else but God. But I think all Christians have questioned Him at one time or another.

DC: Did you ever investigate Buddhism?

BR: I think any religion’s okay, except Satanism. I can’t think of anything in Satanism that could benefit you.

DC: But there’s something flashy about Satanism, don’t you think?

BR: I think it’s more powerful in the short term. That’s the trick that the Devil plays on you. It’s like, cocaine’s great the first couple of times, you know? I think that’s just the Devil. That’s how he works. I’m as firm a believer in the Devil as I am in God. I’m just not a supporter.

DC: So do your musical tastes run to Stryper and that sort of thing?

BR: Fuck, no. I’m into blues and jazz. Wes Montgomery, Buddy Guy, Electric blues and old-school, too. You got your Blind Boy Fuller, Robert Johnson, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. And I still like punk, of course. Anyone who ever liked punk will never not like punk. It’s very easy to like. Being punk rock means not caring what people think of you. At one point, I did have green hair when I was 13 or so, but I thought it was more punk rock to be just kind of normal than to go and pierce my dick or nose.

DC: Are you into old-school punk or new-school punk?

BR: I can’t stand new-school punk. It’s so poppy, like Offspring or Green Day or whatever. I’m more into the D.C. bands—Fugazi, the Teen Idols, shit like that. And the L.A. late-’70s scene stuff—Descendents, Black Flag, Germs.

DC: At one point, you wanted to make a film about the life of Darby Crash of the Germs, didn’t you?

BR: Yeah. It’s funny. I didn’t get to do that. Some other guy’s doing it, I guess. It would have been cool to play a totally reckless punk. I think I could do that pretty well, but fuck it. Right now, I’m wanting to write and direct a film about a boy in a mental institution. He doesn’t speak, and the film’s about his theory that dogs are superior to humans and how there’s really no need for conversation in a perfect world, because everything would be about unconditional love. You wouldn’t have a need for verbal communication. I haven’t written it yet, but I have the thought.

DC: Do you write?

BR: I write poetry and stuff but not scripts. I just have to sit my ass down and do it. It seems a bit overwhelming, like writing a book of haiku or something. It’s a weird form.

DC: Do you have favorite actors?

BR: Steve Buscemi, definitely. I love him, because he just does his thing. Jack Nicholson, Chris Walken. Those cats are cool. I’d love to work with them. But, hell, I’d even work with Ann-Margret, you know? Who’s to say she’s not a genius? You never know.

DC: Do you ever approach actors or directors you like and ask to work with them?

BR: Just the normal shit. I mean, I don’t go, “Hey, I want to work with Stanley Kubrick. I’m going to chase his crazy ass down.” I don’t send fan letters. I don’t make picture collages and shit, like little strips from a magazine. “I’m Brad. I want to work with you.” No.

DC: I guess I’ll end this by clearing up a really common rumor about you. Did Joel Schumacher adopt you when you were making The Client with him?

BR: Fuck. That’s not true whatsoever. When I was 11, I made a joke that he was going to adopt me, or some shit, but that’s all. I think I liked the idea back then, ’cause my life was kind of hard or something. I live with my grandparents, pretty much always have.

DC: A lot of people think the rumor’s true.

BR: What a bunch of dipshits. These rumors, man. I’m like the [rumor] magnet; I don’t know fucking why. Supposedly, I’m doing some movie with Natalie Portman and Liv Tyler called The Little Black Box. I’ve never heard of that in my life. I think Milos Forman is directing it. It would be fucking cool as hell, but it isn’t real.

DC: I heard you were in the Star Wars prequel, too.

BR: Oh, yeah. Go. I’m all over the place. That’s cool. Wait a second. Ouch.

DC: What’s wrong?

BR: Shit, I’m getting a stress cold sore. [pulls out his lower lip] Look at this.

DC: Charming.

BR: Exactly. I’d better go do whatever with this.

DC: Well, thanks.

BR: Yeah. Have a good day, sir.


16 of Brad Renfro’s 31 roles
Dempsey Tillman Collector (2008)
“Collector” is a 14-minute piece about a troubled young man trying to get a grip on reality in the midst of hallucinations and the pressure of proving himself capable of being a father. Tillman shot the film on Nov. 4-5, 2007. Renfro died Jan. 15, 2008, in Los Angeles. ‘One of the first things filmmaker Dempsey Tillman learned about the star of his short film, “Collector,” was how much actor Brad Renfro connected with the main character. “During the rehearsal, I would stop them (Renfro and co-star Matthew Boylan) often because I had some ideas I wanted to have them mull around in doing some lines,” Tillman recalls. “Brad said, ‘This story’s really close to me. I have a kid that nobody knows about.’ I knew that’s where he was drawing from for the character.”‘ — Go Knoxville

the entire film


Gregor Jordan The Informers (2008)
‘If there is one name that’s synonymous with over-generalized ’80s ennui, it’s Bret Easton Ellis. From his initial literary phenomenon Less than Zero to the publishing scandal that was American Psycho, this so called savant has obsessed on the hedonistic decadence of the Greed Decade to the point where he’s literally blurred the lines between truth and taboo. Indeed, most of his stories seem shocking in their lack of human connectivity and with their rampant descent into sex and violence, he appears numb to the normalcy of individual existence. Now comes The Informers, a planned “satire” that was sidetracked by a studio wanting a more studied period piece. What they wound up with instead is a scattered, frequently intriguing omnibus that makes the audience work too hard to find something satisfying.’ — Pop Matters




Bobby Moresco 10th & Wolf (2006)
‘“You’re a disgrace to your heritage,” seethes a drug kingpin’s wife to mobster Joey (Giovanni Ribisi) toward the conclusion of 10th & Wolf, a statement that couldn’t be further from the truth: Just like virtually every aspect of Robert Moresco’s directorial debut, Ribisi’s clichéd crook—a murderous loose cannon with an enormous ego and unswerving loyalty toward his friends and family—is dutifully faithful to his gangster film ancestors. Avoiding the amped-up racial paranoia of his Academy Award-winning Crash script in favor of moldy tough-guy tawk and introspective narration used to spoon-feed character motivation, Moresco’s based-on-real-events saga tracks the 1991 return of disgraced U.S. Marine Tommy (James Marsden) to his Philadelphia hometown after having been blackmailed by Brian Dennehy’s F.B.I. agent to infiltrate his beloved cousin Joey’s illicit operation. The government’s goal is to bust a heroin smuggler with whom Joey is on the verge of partnering (or, potentially, warring), though Tommy’s objective is to save Joey, as well as his younger wannabe thug brother Vincent (Brad Renfro), from the hammer of justice. 10th & Wolf‘s aim, however, is to revisit familiar Mafioso movie themes and plot points, a goal it uncreatively achieves throughout its listless Godfather-meets-Donnie Brasco tale of undercover surveillance, blood allegiances, and wrenching betrayal.’ — Slant



John Maybury The Jacket (2005)
The Jacket is a 2005 American psychological thriller/horror film directed by John Maybury and starring Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Brad Renfro, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. It is partly based on the Jack London novel of the same name. Massy Tadjedin wrote the screenplay based on a story by Tom Bleecker and Marc Rocco. The original music score is composed by Brian Eno with Roger Eno and the cinematography is by Peter Deming. The narrative is a time slip fantasy in which an Iraqi war veteran who suffered a death or near-death experience while on active service returns to the United States where he is blamed for the death of a policeman, and incarcerated in a hospital for the criminally insane. Subject to experimental treatments there, which involve him being shut inside a morgue casket while tied in a straitjacket, he eventually learns to travel through time and is able to offer help to various people.’ — Wiki


Brad Renfro The Jacket Premiere Interview


Jordan Brady American Girl (2002)
American Girl just doesn’t work at all; the characters are obnoxious, the directorial style is bland, and the pacing is off (way off). American Girl contains a surprisingly adept cast, with rising star Malone delivering yet another impressive performance (despite the fact that she’s essentially riffing on her now-patented tortured teenager persona). Renfro, playing exactly the sort of slow, dim-witted character he seems to have cornered the market on, doesn’t fare quite as well and it’s impossible not to wonder if the actor is even capable of hitting any other notes.’ — Reel Film Reviews




Terry Zwigoff Ghost World (2001)
‘Recounting the “Ghost World” plot, such as it is, doesn’t do the film justice. The pleasure here is not in the story but the telling; watching lovingly created characters interact, and getting dewy-eyed over Zwigoff’s immaculate recreation of late adolescence. An erstwhile documentary maker, much-praised for 1994’s “Crumb” – a look at the life of underground comic book writer Robert Crumb – Zwigoff has an ear for truthful dialogue, and an eye for the detritus of teenage life. The performances are universally superb. Buscemi was born to play Seymour, a nerdy, strangely endearing obsessive not quite comfortable in his own skin, while even bit players like Brad Renfro leave a lasting impression. The standout is Birch, a compelling blend of aggressive wit, tender vulnerability, and ungainly beauty. Our journey with Enid may be slow and somewhat meandering but, as a funny and moving paean to adolescence, this certainly beats hell out of “American Pie 2”.’ — BBC




Larry Clark Bully (2001)
‘Shooting Bully wasn’t exactly Apocalypse Now but we had our share of adventures. The boat was just the start of it. The boat was a 45-foot yacht that Bully’s male lead, Brad Renfro, attempted to steal from a Fort Lauderdale dock the night before shooting was scheduled to begin. It was an incident that could have sunk the film, had Renfro – a deep southerner with a staggeringly high IQ and a penchant for quoting the Bible – only remembered to untie the vessel before trying to thieve it. Requiring a $10,000 bail and eventually resulting in two years’ probation, it was the second bust for Brad after his 1998 arrest, when police discovered two packets of cocaine and marijuana in his pocket whilst out joyriding with his cousin. Coming to the public attention as a wide-eyed prepubescent in films such as The Client and Sleepers, Renfro is the undisputed king of the Anti-Breakfast Club; a Robert Downey Jnr-in-waiting who, when not in rehab, is one of the most in-demand actors around. Bully co-star Bijou Phillips, however, has a rather different take on him: “He’s just a big kid,” Bijou says, explaining why she demanded a separate hotel from Renfro and the rest of the Bully cast. “When we made Tart [a little-seen Scream-like horror affair] together, he’d come over to my room and want me to put him in the bath and get him sober. Or he’d cut himself and we’d be in the hospital at four in the morning and we would have to shoot at six. It was just too much. I needed my space.”‘ — The Guardian



Bully – B Roll Inside Marty’s House


Daniel Waters Happy Campers (2001)
‘Daniel Waters guaranteed himself a place in cinema history with his debut screenplay “Heathers”, one of the sharpest, blackest and downright original films of the second half of the eighties. Yet in the meantime he has seemingly enjoyed his well-paid limbo in hackville, churning out scripts ranging from the what-was-he-thinking (yes “Hudson Hawk”, we mean you) to the sublime (the second and best installment in the Batman franchise). Thus the phrase “Daniel Waters’ directorial debut” immediately raises expectations, will it be a twisted and perverted return to his “Heathers” world view? The answer is yes. It’s not a great film, in fact it is a very flawed one, but it is never anything but ambitious and frequently very funny.’ — Carnival of Souls




Tamra Davis Skipped Parts (2000)
‘Trimark has its work cut out for it in pushing this late-summer clunker, which hits wrong notes from the start and only gets more sour as it goes along. Fans pulled in by a sharp cast will be displeased by how poorly their faves fare. And anyone looking for a witty or insightful chronicle of growing up in the early ’60s will be more than disappointed. Most auds will simply skip “Parts” altogether.’ — Variety



Michel Gondry Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter (1998)
‘French director Michel Gondry directed a music video for the song, which was released in 1998. The video features a sixteen-year old Brad Renfro, playing a young man escaping with his brother from a dysfunctional home and the abuse they suffered at the hands of their abusive alcoholic father, and then from society as a whole.’ — tfcf


Bryan Singer Apt Pupil (1998)
‘”Apt Pupil” uses the horrors of the Holocaust as an atmospheric backdrop to the more conventional horror devices of a Stephen King story. It’s not a pretty sight. By the end of the film, as a death camp survivor is quoting John Donne’s poem about how no man is an island, we’re wondering what island the filmmakers were inhabiting, as they assembled this uneasy hybrid of the sacred and the profane. The movie is well made by Bryan Singer and well acted, especially by Ian McKellen as Kurt Dussander, a Nazi war criminal who has been hiding in American for years. The theme is intriguing: A teenager discovers the old man’s real identity, and blackmails him into telling stories about his wartime experiences. But when bodies are buried in cellars and cats are thrown into lighted ovens, the film reveals itself as unworthy of its subject matter.’ — Roger Ebert



Brad Renfro 1998 Interview


Guy Ferland Telling Lies in America (1997)
‘”It don’t matter how you get it … as long as you get it,” says Kevin Bacon to an astonished 15-year-old who has just discovered he has lost his virginity to a prostitute. That’s how Karchy Jonas’s rites of passage are bought and sold in Telling Lies in America, a screenplay by Joe Eszterhas that has taken 15 years to migrate from page to screen. Set in Cleveland in 1961, the film plots the fortunes of a Hungarian immigrant who is picked on at high school until he lies himself into a job on a local radio station with a slick but corrupt disc jockey, Billy Magic (played by Kevin Bacon), up to his neck in payola. Those were the days when managers passed over fat brown envelopes to get their clients’ songs played. Remarkably, this autobiographical film cost $4m [pounds 2.5m] and took 24 days to make. That’s not far off what Eszterhas alone usually gets paid for a script. What sets it apart is a display of character acting by Bacon and his young co-star, Brad Renfro, that gives the screenwriter’s bitter take on the American Dream – you’ve got to lie to get places – a startling authenticity.’ — The Independent



Barry Levinson Sleepers (1996)
‘Unlike The Boys of St. Vincent, Sleepers offers no insights into the torment of men like Nokes. The film’s concern is for the abused boys, superbly played by Brad Renfro as Michael, Joe Perrino as Shakes, Geoffrey Wigdor as John and Jonathan Tucker as Tommy, who rightly dominate the film’s first hour. As in Diner and Avalon, Levinson shows a keen eye for the pangs of adolescence. Michael Ballhaus’ luminous cinematography polishes those days of talking sex and playing stickball until Hell’s Kitchen shines like a concrete Camelot. Idealized? You bet. That’s why the loss of this world must be avenged with the same broad strokes that you’d expect from the Count of Monte Cristo. “We lived inside every book we read, every movie we saw,” Carcaterra wrote. “We were Cagney in Angels With Dirty Faces. . . . We were Ivanhoe on our own city streets.” These words are the key to Sleepers‘ vaultingly romantic style and its core truth. No one challenges Carcaterra’s previous nonfiction book, A Safe Place, in which he learns, at 14, that his father had served time for killing his first wife. It’s public record. Sleepers, for all the doubts it raises, is the work of a man who speaks for absent friends and “for the children we were.” It’s his secret heart. Leave the matter of getting away with murder to Carcaterra and his conscience. Onscreen, in the faces of these lost children, the pain is real.’ — Rolling Stone




Peter Hewitt Tom and Huck (1995)
‘Jonathan Taylor Thomas (HOME IMPROVEMENT) stars as America’s greatest teenage hero — Tom Sawyer! No boy ever had so much fun, got into so much trouble, or had so many outrageous adventures! Disney’s magic touch now turns Mark Twain’s masterpiece into “An outstanding classic adventure film” (Kids News Network). Tom and his rebellious friend Huck (Brad Renfro) witness a midnight killing. They swear not to reveal what they saw — but that causes a real problem. If Tom doesn’t speak up, an innocent friend may be hanged. But if he does tell the truth, the real killer, knife-throwing Injun Joe, will come after him! TOM AND HUCK has it all — a treasure hunt, a haunted house, a courtroom showdown, a scary chase in a cave, and a valuable lesson for young Tom: when a friend’s in trouble, you don’t run away!’ — vudu



Peter Horton The Cure (1995)
‘There are three moments of perfect truth in “The Cure.” There are several passages that are very moving. And then there’s an impossible story that plays like a cross between a Disease of the Week movie and “The Goonies.” It’s possible that moviegoers in their earlier teens – the target audience – will like it a lot. I was derailed by the silly stuff, and by the movie’s conviction that it’s funny to play practical jokes about death.’ — Roger Ebert


Brad Renfro Interview Of The Cure


Joel Schumacher The Client (1994)
‘Held up by a supporting casting including heavyweight actors like Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker and Anthony LaPaglia, the film itself isn’t afraid to pack a punch, but the whole movie, however, balances on the performance of Brad Renfro, who truly is astounding in the role of Mark. Being cast at the tender age of 10 years old, he really is a force to reckoned with and really holds his own up against the huge names he was working with. It did seem that his career was there for the taking and he ended up starring in some really interesting projects but, sadly, like many child stars in Hollywood, his story did not have a happy ending. In his case, he became addicted to drugs and died at the age of 25 from a heroin overdose. You need to look no further than this film to see the talent he had.’ — Den of Geek!







p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I think Morrisoe is vastly more interesting than Mapplethorpe, but that’s obviously just me. I’m sorry Ira wasn’t of help. He’s a knowledgeable guy, but he’s just one guy with his own take, instincts, etc, so, yes, don’t let what he wrote deter you in the slightest. ** Bill, Ha ha, me does think Morrisroe might have a bit of a tricky husband, but you only live once, right? I didn’t quite get to Jiri Barta this weekend as I’d hoped, but he’s locked in, and it’s good to know about the early-vs.-later thing. Thanks, Bill. ** Misanthrope, Glad you dug it, and thanks about the interview. If you keep your eye on the blog, I’m sure it won’t let you forget about theme parks. Huh, yeah, those wtf moments with writing happen to me with a fair frequency. Unpleasant in the moment but nearly always just a shift in the launching pad. Oh, I see, about concussions. Then who knows. I guess I must have had one when that boy hit me on the head with the axe. Did you rock and roil the wine fest? ** Toniok, Hi, man! Awesome to see you! I’m so glad it was so good for you. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! I had a feeling you might take to his work, cool. Ha ha, I wish I could join you for that Iceage gig. Hey, never say never. Zac and I talked to Elias about collaborating on something a couple of years ago, probably some kind of video or something. We’re a bit more focused now, and we’d like to talk to him and see if he’s still into combining talents. But I’ll write to him. Your weekend sounded most promising, and I hope it paid off? It did? Me, I, yes, worked. The TV script might get sent off as early as today. I saw that concert, half of which was excellent, and half of which was not. Zac and I talked about making a short film, both out of interest in doing so and also to have something to work on/do during the always too long fundraising phase for our next feature film. I got some possibly really good ideas for it that I’ll run by Zac today maybe. Not much else really? Did Monday manage to keep the ball rolling on your hopefully great weekend? ** JM, Thanks, man. As a disbeliever in the idea that real insight can be derived from generalisations, I would hazard that it’s probably your circles? I’ve never watched ‘Arrested Development’. I’ve become very, very weak on TV. There’s a bunch of PGL news, but we’re not yet allowed to announce it, so, no, I don’t think you missed anything. Yes, Gisele directed this. ** David S. Estornell, Hi. Sure, when/where? Hit me up on FB or something. Definitely a coffee over a beer. ** Alistair, Hi, A! I don’t think I’ve had the chance to tell you ‘face to face’ how happy I was and am that you won the Ferro-Grumley! So cool! I’m glad that prize is still geared towards the original and daring. If I met Morrisroe, it must have been in passing at an opening or something. I don’t remember doing so. The PGL film fest experiences have been really good, and there are a bunch more upcoming plus some exciting news/events that I can’t talk about yet. Everything seems to going very, very well for the film, knock on wood. I am happy about the Biennale thing, you bet. I’m hoping to get to go and see the shows and the big B itself. I’ve never been to a Venice Biennale, so that would be cool too. Take care! ** Steve Erickson, Hi, Steve. Thanks. It’s strange because the stabbing happened quite close to where I live, about a half-block from a place where I buy cigarettes sometimes, so I know the block/intersection where it transpired pretty well. Everyone I know is okay, thanks. Have you listened to her radio show? Sounds promising, obviously. ** Wolf, Wolfie!!!!! Buddy!!! Oh, how is your new place? You dig it down to the last detail even? Soon it will be like a giant (relatively) bathtub, I bet. Full of soapy bubbles and rubber duckies and so on. I was going too say … living in the woods is awesome and all, if a bit of a horror movie waiting to happen, but, but … what about poor little DC’s, but then you realised, whew! What’s up? What’s real? ** Sypha, Thanks, James. Yes, I bowl. Not very much since I moved over here, but yes. With a reasonable frequency when I was based in LA. I’m an erratic bowler. Sometimes I’m genius at it for no reason at all, and other times I’m predictably middling to bad. ** Ferdinand, Thanks, big F. Yeah, David W. has become quite a thing now. It’s weird, but you know, great. He’d be weirded out by it. I hope that pressure gets released. Is there a doable valve anywhere? ** MANCY, Howdy, S! Oh, cool. Yeah, he was tight with Nan and that crew, and similarly came from Boston, and he’s a star of some of her shots. I hope stuff is awesome with you. ** Kyler, Very happy to have helped occasion the discovery. Well, of course it’s going to be good. That thing/part is not in question. I do think I read somewhere about that opera. But not a lot. I’ll use your link to add heft to what I know. Thanks, bud. ** Okay. Someone, I think Steve E., brought up Brad Renfro the other day, and that was the impetus to make this post. It includes my interview with him from 1997 for you trivia buffs. See you tomorrow.


  1. David Saä Estornell

    Great post. Thanks for your kind Dennis. I will write this week.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    Ira actuall came though since I last write, supplying mewith the name of a potential artist’s rep. ‘m putting book “pitch” together as “Raiseed By Hand Puppets” is complete save for the title chapter.

    Bra Renfro is ineffably sad.

  3. Ferdinand

    Looking foward to reading your interview here with Renfro. I enjoyed a recent episode of wtf with marc maron talking to Larry Clark, and he was talking about getting Bully filmed and getting Renfro ready to work kinda sounded like getting Sid Viscious ready to record those solo songs. About the pressure thing, Im hoping that becoming a shop keeper in some dangerous and dismal industrial area serving manual labourers chips in a hole in a wall might solve the problem.

  4. Steve Erickson

    I haven’t listened to her radio show yet, but it’s archived on WNYU’s website and I can play it any time I want to.

    I’ve recently gotten fascinated by videos about lean on YouTube, particularly the many videos showing people making it. I have learned that although you can serve several years in jail in Japan for a single joint, you can walk into a pharmacy and buy a bottle of codeine cough syrup over the counter. (I know that the U.S. is actually fairly unusual internationally in keeping codeine syrup under such tight controls.) But what’s really weird is the ritual involved: one needs 2 styrofoam cups, ice, Jolly Rancher candies, Sprite (which fills 3/4th of the cup) and the syrup itself (which fills the remainder of the cup) for the full experience. (There was one video where a guy put 2 Xanax bars in the bottom of the cup at the beginning, which was weird because he kept emphasizing moderation, not using too much syrup and said he had a legit prescription for it due to asthma.) There are tons of videos by teenagers where they just mix together different kinds of sodas to make something looks purple but has no cough syrup in it, including one I found funny where a kid kept repeating “Don’t do drugs! I’m making lean!” There are also “legal lean” drinks available and videos where people review them, as well as a bunch of videos by a rapper who runs a company selling a drink literally called Legal Lean (he made a video of himself drinking it at the airport and boasting about how he can get away with this because there’s no codeine in it.) I have noticed this phenomenon in New York delis and vape shops, but I only saw about 4 brands in person. Looking at their active ingredients, they seem to be mixtures of Valerian and melatonin. But on-line, there seems to be a dozen or so of these drinks. The “original Black Panthers” made a bunch of self-righteous videos where they barge into delis and try to convince them not to sell “legal lean,” even though the ingredients are pretty much identical to over-the-counter sleeping pills and way safer than codeine. “Synthetic marijuana” is actually much more dangerous than the real thing. But it’s an interesting cultural phenomenon to me that people want to take fake drugs or even make videos of themselves mixing grape soda and Sprite to look like lean.

  5. Sypha

    I’ve seen a few of Renfro’s films… mainly GHOST WORLD and THE INFORMERS… that latter film was pretty hit and miss, actually; it captured the empty nihilism of the book pretty well and was actually fairly faithful to the source material but failed to capture the humor (I think Bret joked in an interview somewhere that apparently all the actors were under the impression that they were filming an Australian soap opera). The opening scene, set to the song “New Gold Dream,” is probably the highlight of the whole movie.

    I used to bowl with my family every now and then back in the 90’s but it’s probably been over a decade since I last bowled… I recall that back in the day we would use the kiddie balls, ha ha.

  6. _Black_Acrylic

    I met with Alex yesterday and there’s no hard feelings about his Yuck ‘n Yum self-defenestration so that’s good to see settled. Right now I’m still very much focused on getting the PayPal account set up for the YNY website and if these Compendiums can all fly out to loving homes, then this saga might still have a happy ending. I’m away down to Leeds for a few days tomorrow, and hope to direct things from there.

    When I get back in Dundee next week I’ll plot my next move and go see Donna, ex of the Fleet Collective and now of a new project named Agency of None. All there is on its website is some cryptic symbol thing that seems pretty cool anyway.

    Checking some of the hype about the new Noe film Climax and the bad trip – contemporary dance troupe concept seems rather Gisele and DC inspired. Gotta say I’m psyched about this and its trailer has a great pulsing Cerrone soundtrack too.

  7. Dóra Grőber


    Such an amazing day again! Brad Renfro is quite the SCAB muse. I especially liked the interview. Thank you for this!

    Never say never, exactly! Who knows, maybe you’ll have some important business in Hungary and then you can join me for the Iceage show, haha! Jesus, if you really end up creating something together with Elias – I literally can’t imagine anything more inspiring! I really hope it happens!

    Are you comfortable saying anything concerning your ideas about the short film? What did Zac think? I love it so much about you that you’re always working on so many different projects at the same time.

    My weekend was exactly as great as planned and today was okay too. A bit busy but I’m getting more and more confident and independent (in the shop, I mean, haha) which makes everything a lot more bearable.
    Remember the documentary I told you about some time ago? The designer drugs one? I ran into the “protagonist” this morning.

    How was the day on your end? … Episode #3?

  8. Wolf

    Dennis, dude!! Haha, nope, the flat is the opposite of full right now and is gonna stay like that until we do all kinds of shit to it, which I reckon is gonna take until July or so. But then it’s gonna be fucking great. We’ll have miles of wall-space to put up all the artworks we’ve for languishing in cupboards, and bookshelves everywhere!
    What’s real, you say? Aw mate. You and your stealth metaphysics. Let’s see.
    Well, the lasagna we just had, for starters: that was proper real.
    Going down to see my folks next weekend: high probability of realness.
    The huge abomination being raised from the ground across the street and looming over my window as I type, making me reconsider scale, space and capitalism every time I look up, although to be honest there is not much to RE-consider about the latter: about 50 meters too real.
    My bonsai struggling to make new leaves because Spring was so late and now it’s confused, poor little thing, it’s a tree in a pot and I have not even given it a name yet, so what do you expect: real and yet not (zen, you know?).
    The blackbird outside who’s expanding his impossibly wide repertoire of wacky 7-seconds tunes every day and is such a joy to wake up to in the middle of the night when he sings to himself, never repeating a song once in half-hour sequences, giving zero fucks about anything else than pure sound and harmony: probably the only thing that’s actually real. Unless it’s all a simulation and he’s the bug in the programming because it’s not possible for a bird with a brain of that size to know that many unique songs. Mh. Shit.
    What’s real where you are?

  9. James Nulick


    Brad Renfro was my imaginary boyfriend circa the Ghost World era, because my real boyfriend at the time was an unhinged psychotic meth-head.

    Perhaps you could do a ‘people who have died after working with Larry Clark day…’ you know,

    Brad Renfro
    Justin Pierce
    Harold Hunter

    I’m glad you and Zac are safe. Wow, the world is so crazy now with religious zealots killing people. I was thinking of visiting you in Paris next year, but first I’ll stock up on a Kevlar vest.. though nowhere that humans tread is safe.

    You and Zac working on a short film in-between projects?!! That’s awesome! Where do you find the energy, Dennis??!

    I’ve been in total meltdown mode for about 3 days because something in my new novel just wasn’t working, I finally broke down and asked my other half about it (a non-writer), we discussed it and he said ‘why don’t you just cut that part out and suture around it?’ Sometimes the solution is obvious, except to the creator. So now I have this renewed energy about it. I’m up to 80,000 words now but they are very lean words.. I don’t want to top the scales with any unnecessary icing!

    I enjoyed your 4 books post the other day, I’ve gotta pick up that new Sam Pink.

    Sending you lots of love,

    James ❤❤

  10. Misanthrope

    Dennis, I know you know I’m big Brad fan. I read the article Steve linked to the other day. I don’t know that anyone could’ve saved the guy from himself. Maybe. Seems his parents and grandmother fucked him up so bad that he never had a chance. But I’m a positive guy. He did have a chance somehow. Just never got to take advantage of it. Sad all the way around.

    Oh, I should’ve been clearer. The crazy wine fest thing is this coming weekend, the 19th. It’s gonna be crazy. Gotta park off-site and take a shuttle over. Tons of people. I’ll probably fall in love a few times. I hope it’s not too hot.

    Yeah, I started back on my bit and am much happier with it now. Still have to edit what I’ve done and finish it. Probably tonight.

    Oh, dude, you definitely got a concussion from that axe. It’d be a miracle if you didn’t. Explains a lot, no? Hehehe, I’m kidding.

  11. Kyler

    Hey kid, sometimes I feel so ignorant when being introduced to the characters on your blog – didn’t know this one either, but glad I do now. Just found out today that Sarah’s “Cleansed” was at the National Theatre this year…Cleansed is my favorite play of Sarah’s – saw the last preview of the original production. Thought you might like to see this vid, about Staging the Unstageable (with Sarah’s “impossible” stage directions).

    When I’d read “Blasted” – her first, before seeing it, I asked Sarah how the main character “eats the baby” toward the end, and she said, “Oh, that’s easy.” – which I realized it was when I saw it in New York. Something you and Sarah have in common (at least in my mind) – is that you both create such brutal images in your work, yet you are/were both the sweetest people in “real life.” I find this dichotomy most fascinating. What do you make of it?

    • Steve Erickson

      I haven’t spent tons of time with Gaspar Noe, but he was totally sweet to me and even spent half an hour chatting when I happened to run into him when he had time to kill standing in front of the IFC Center before an ENTER THE VOID Q&A while most directors want nothing to do with but critics once interviews are. I do know a female publicist who spent an entire weekend shepherding him around Toronto right around the time IRREVERSIBLE came out, and given that film’s content, she feared sexual harassment. Instead, she said he was a total gentleman. I know so many people who assume that everyone who makes violent films or uses extreme sexual imagery must want to act on their depictions or is endorsing them.

  12. JM

    Quite possibly re:the circles stuff. Arrested Development is good, real bizarro absurdity in this thing. TV overall doesn’t interest me that much though. Nathan For You: Finding Frances, The Leftovers, Twin Peaks:The Return & Hannibal are the only things that have been really inspiring lately. That Gisele short is pree-teee sweet. RIP brad.


  13. h

    Hello, Dennis — amorous post somehow — thank you. Good distraction. How are you? Just briefly visiting as I don’t know when you’re visiting nyc. When would it be? It’s very busy here, but I’m getting used to it, so hope to see you even briefly. Please let me know. Otherwise, I watched Mr Nathaniel Dorsky’s “Arboretum Cycle” in the city here, it was beautiful. I hope you can see it sometime soon, with Mr Farley. Mr Dorsky screens it only in silent speed, so it’s not
    coming to every town, no, but I’m sure a lucky place in Paris will host it soon. (Light cone has prints of it.) Achingly beautiful work. I feel I was in one of most important chapters in film history or… film dream. a previleged moment.

  14. math

    yo dennis its math i have had a very very shitty 2018 so far +im abt to get evicted
    could u share my attempt to get tithed

    pope math

  15. Thomas Boettner

    Dennis! I received test press copies of the CYCLE LP finally, and I absolutely want to send you one! Thank you for being an inspiration

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