There was a time when Hollywood thought that Edward Furlong was destined to become one of the biggest and best actors in the world.
He had all the ingredients to be just that: he had the looks, he had the charm, he had the style, he had the charisma and above all else he had the considerable skill. So with that being the case, when Edward Furlong became a megastar over night in the 1990s with starring roles in films such as Terminator 2, American History X, American Heart and A Home of Our Own, why didn’t he go on from there and become one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors?
Well his is a story not unlike many other child actors who have too much too soon, and find themselves surrounded by people who instead of guiding them, offering wisdom and council to make sure the inexperienced young stars stay on the right track, they are surrounded by people just looking for as much of the pie as they can get for themselves while the bakery is still open.
In many ways, Furlong’s life wasn’t far away from the life of the character that breathed life into his promise in Hollywood, T2’s John Conner.
He didn’t know his father, his mother eventually lost control of him and his aunt and uncle ended up suing for custody of him during his early teen years. Everybody fought over who would look out for him, but in reality, it seemed like everybody just wanted a first class ticket on the gravy train. All of this ended up with him suing for his emancipation, and not only that, he won.
It all started with Terminator 2 when he was cast after being spotted at a Pasadena Boys and Girls Club in September of 1990 by casting director Mali Finn. It was a role that earned him a MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance, as well as a Saturn Award for best young actor.
After T2, a 13-year-old Furlong began a highly controversial sexual and romantic relationship with his 26-year-old tutor Jacqueline Louise Domac on the set of the movie which continued for most of his teenage years.
When California’s statutory rape law changed in 1994 to allow the prosecution of adult women who have sex with minors, Furlong’s guardian Sean Furlong filed a complaint against Domac. However, he was unsuccessful in having her prosecuted.
Thanks to his starring role in T2 he was an overnight success, and he followed it up with a string of indie films that earned him more praise, including sharing the screen with sharing the screen with Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson in Before and After; Tim Roth, Maximilian Schell, and Vanessa Redgrave in Little Odessa; Jeff Bridges in American Heart; and Anthony Edwards and Clancy Brown in Pet Sematary Two.
He was also in Aerosmith’s music video for Livin’ on the Edge.
His second hugely successful film came in 1999 when he appeared alongside Edward Norton in the powerful drama American History X. However, as the 90s came to an end, so too did Furlong’s star power, as it dwindled into the new millennium.
Furlong went into rehab in October 2000, and six years later, the troubled actor said that from the ages of 22 to 26 years old, he was “on and off” hard drugs, adding that, “I was a heroin and cocaine addict. It was really scary.” In the same interview, he said, “I don’t even think about (partying) anymore. It seems lonely now: running and clubbing and doing coke. I have nightmares about doing hard drugs. I’ll wake up and I’m like, ‘Did I relapse?'”
His drug use seriously impacted his career, which led to him not being cast in Terminator 3, despite many people thinking he would be.
As the years went on, he continued to get caught up in drugs and legal troubles, including multiple rehab stints, violating probation, counselling for domestic violence and jail time.
All of this led to his career becoming practically non-existent, in which the only movies he starred in were straight-to-DVD releases. He hasn’t had a theatrical release in well over a decade.
Overall, Furlong’s career should act as a cautionary tale for young actors in Hollywood, to not get caught up in the trappings of the ‘too much, too young’ lifestyle that many child stars unfortunately never recover from.