I haven’t seen The Client since its release in 1994, but I can still remember Brad Renfro‘s debut performance in the John Grisham blockbuster. He was unlike most young Hollywood actors, from his genuine Nashville accent to the eyes that took in everything around them a little too deeply especially for a kid; and that’s because he wasn’t a Hollywood actor. He had natural talent and one almost sensed that he was already drawing from life experience, instead of expensive acting lessons.
I’m sure we all caught glimpses of Renfro’s troubles in the papers or online over the years. It seemed like he was on permanent vacation from acting, with plenty of resources around that allowed him to live hard. I remember one instance involving a boat theft that was just unbelievable. It might sound crass, but I admired the guy’s rebelliousness a little when I read about it. It wasn’t for publicity. And its important to remember that Renfro never stopped acting. He delivered a solid performance in Bryan Singer’s 1998 follow-up to the The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, but the performance that really sticks with me is the one in Larry Clark’s Floridian tragedy Bully from 2001. There are those rare characters in movies that have the entire world caving in around them no matter what they do, and with Bully I wasn’t sure how much of Renfro’s character was on the page. Renfro was the actor that other actors praised in special features on DVDs, saying things like “he can have it all if he can just level out.” He had just completed a role in the film adaptation of American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis’ The Informers, the sort of heavy material he gravitated to. He never “leveled out,” but neither did his performances.
Brad Renfro is dead at 25. The cause of death is unknown at this time. If anyone has anything to add, by all means, but try to do so tastefully.