Brad Renfro Biography:
Brad Renfro got his start as a child performer when he was discovered by Joel Schumacher and cast as the protagonist in the film adaptation of John Grisham's legal thriller "The Client" (1994). Charismatic and magnetic onscreen, with an alluring combination of knowingness and vulnerability, the sad-eyed, dark-haired actor was chosen based on his background (an authentic underprivileged and streetwise Southern boy) and his performing ease. Renfro, deemed a natural talent by a Warner Bros. acting coach, held his own admirably in the film, alongside such heavy hitters as Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. In 1995, he took a co-starring role in "The Cure", a touching family feature starring Joseph Mazzello as Dexter, a young boy who contracts the AIDS virus through a tainted blood transfusion. Town hysteria leads to the child's friendless existence until he meets Renfro's Erik, a neighborhood tough who partners up with Dexter and eventually accompanies the ailing boy on his adventurous quest for the titular grail. A natural in roles that used his innate bad boy charms, Renfro was a good choice to play Huckleberry Finn in Disney's "Tom and Huck" (1995). While the onscreen pairing of Renfro and TV star Jonathan Taylor Thomas was the stuff teen magazine dreams are made of, the young actor was less than pleased with the production, believing it to be disappointingly bland and lacking "edge".
The same could certainly not be said for 1996's gritty drama "Sleepers", in which Renfro had a turn as the young incarnation of Brad Pitt's character Michael, one of a group of teens savagely abused at the hands of a sadistic guard (Kevin Bacon) while in juvenile detention. A starring role as a young Hungarian immigrant boy who apprentices himself to a payola-driven radio DJ paired him again with Bacon the following year, the two acting out Joe Eszterhas' semi-autobiographical script in Guy Ferland's acclaimed "Telling Lies in America". Renfro's twisted turn in "Apt Pupil" featured him as a schoolboy whose fascination with Nazism and discovery that his elderly neighbor Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen) was in fact a concentration camp guard living undetected. Through blackmail, the youngster forces the older man to relate his brutal first-hand tales of the Holocaust, and the two develop a mutually predatory relationship. Both Renfro and McKellen were particularly chilling as the crafty manipulators in Bryan Singer's adaptation of the Stephen King novella.
While at one point the darling of the young teen set (due in no small
part to his brooding good looks and cool self-confidence), of his six
films released in the 1990s, only "Tom and Huck" and "The
Cure" catered to that fan base, while the R rating given to "Sleepers"
and "Apt Pupil" excluded many of his supporters. These interesting
and atypical role choices continued through his career. Aged seventeen
in the midst of the 1999 teen film boom, with a recognizable name and
reputation for excellent work, Renfro didn't take advantage of his enviable
position, but instead continued on his unusual career path. He delivered
a powerful performance as a troubled Florida youth who turns on his abusive
best friend in "Bully" (2001), directed by Larry Clark. When
he took his first teen comedy role, it was in the especially odd and decidedly
dark "Happy Campers" (screened at Sundance in 2001). Other roles
included a co-starring part in "Skipped Parts" (also 2001),
a 60s-set story of a misfit mother and her teenage son, banished to a
remote town by the woman's rich and overbearing father and a featured
turn in "Tart" (lensed 1999), a period drama following the fast-living
80s exploits of a group of Upper East Side teens that reteamed Renfro
with "Happy Campers" co-star Dominique Swain.
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