Troubled Actor Brad Renfro Dies at 25

We do not cover a lot of celebrity, tabloid-style news on this Web Press, but it’s different if we know someone who pops up in the news, especially when that someone dies tragically and unexpectedly.

Brad Renfro, the young actor from Knoxville, Tennessee who broke into the movies from a DARE theater program for troubled kids in the 1990s with a major role in “The Client,” based on John Grisham’s novel, was found dead Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. He was 25.

The cause of death was not immediately determined, according to sources, but an autopsy was planned. Renfro had reportedly been partying with friends the night before, which is not surprising, since that’s how he spent a lot of his time based on my experience knowing him in Knoxville from 1996-2000.

He was a nice, soft spoken and even shy young man. As well as showing some talent as an actor, he was a decent guitar player who showed up for the Wednesday night weekly blues jam at Sassy Ann’s on a regular basis. I played the drums several times in the same ad hoc combination, and partied with him a number of times, but never really got close to him. He came from a relatively poor and troubled home and could be quite distant when asked questions about himself and his family.

I tried several times to do a formal interview with him but he always declined.

Renfro’s lawyer, Richard Kaplan, told the Associated Press he was on the road to recovery from addiction.

“He was working hard on his sobriety,” Kaplan said. “He was doing well. He was a nice person.”

Renfro recently completed a role in “The Informers,” a film adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel that stars Winona Ryder, Brandon Routh and Billy Bob Thornton, according to the AP.

“Brad was an exceptionally talented young actor and our time spent with him was thoroughly enjoyable,” Marco Weber, president of the film’s production house, Senator Entertainment, said in a statement.

Renfro had his share of run-ins with the law over the years. He served 10 days in jail in May 2006 after pleading no contest to driving while intoxicated and guilty to attempted possession of heroin after being arrested on Skid Row while attempting to buy heroin from an undercover agent in 2005. He was placed on probation in January 2001 and ordered to pay $4,000 for repairs to a 45-foot yacht he and a friend tried to steal in Florida in August 2000, the month I left Knoxville for New Orleans.

I was told a wave of crack addictions hit Knoxville about that time and destroyed the lives of a number of talented musicians from East Tennessee.

He was arrested again in May 2001 and charged with underage drinking, violating the terms of his probation, and was ordered into alcohol rehabilitation the following March.

In 1998, Renfro was charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana. He avoided jail time in that case due to a plea deal, aided in part by his sponsors in the DARE program and in Hollywood.

His other movie credits included “Sleepers” and “Deuces Wild,” as well as “Apt Pupil” and “The Jacket.”

AP: Troubled Actor Brad Renfro Dies at 25