Brad Renfro, the former one-to-watch whose acting work was often overshadowed by reports of drug abuse and legal troubles, was found dead Tuesday morning at his Los Angeles home. He was 25.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said that paramedics pronounced him dead at 9:00 a.m. after friends he had spent the previous evening with called 911. Cause of death has not yet been determined and an autopsy could take place as early as Wednesday.
Coroner's Office chief investigator Craig Harvey said that Renfro had been drinking alcohol last night but it's too soon to tell whether that was a factor.
Renfro made his big-screen debut opposite Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon in the adaptation of the John Grisham bestseller The Client when he was 12. He worked steadily over the years but never quite recaptured the buzz that surrounded him as a child star as reports of his struggles with substance abuse outweighed all other publicity.
An L.A. Police Department spokesman said there was no suspicion of foul play, but declined to say whether drugs or related paraphernalia were found in the actor's home.
Renfro's more recent behavior, however, suggested that the Knoxville, Tennessee, native was working hard to get his life back on track.
About a month after agreeing to enter a drug-diversion program in March 2006 in order to avoid jail time on an attempted heroin-possession rap, he told reporters that he had 30 days of hard-won sobriety and was "tired of paying the consequences" for his destructive behavior.
He had previously served 10 days in jail on an unrelated DUI charge.
"It wasn't as bad as I had feared it would be," Renfro said, referring to the court-ordered detox program. "It's helped me greatly. It's definitely been an eye-opener...I'm going to stay clean, and, in turn, it will help me spiritually and with work. It's going to help me in all phases of my life."
"He was working hard on his sobriety," Renfro's attorney, Richard Kaplan, told the Associated Press Thursday afternoon. "He was doing well. He was a nice person."
The actor had recently wrapped shooting on the feature adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' 1995 novel The Informers, costarring Winona Ryder, Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke and Brandon Routh.
"Brad was an exceptionally talented young actor and our time spent with him was thoroughly enjoyable," Marco Weber, president of the film's production company Senator Entertainment , said in a statement.
Most recently, Renfro was spied as a troubled murder suspect in a 2006 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and he appeared in the 2005 time-travel thriller The Jacket with Adrien Brody.
Even as a tween star, Renfro tended to stick to the dark side when it came to choosing roles.
After a bright-eyed turn as Huckleberry Finn in the Disney film Tom and Huck, he went on to play a child-abuse victim in Sleepers and a boy who learns that his friendly old neighbor played by Ian McKellen is actually a Nazi war criminal in Apt Pupil.
His other film credits include Bully, Ghost World and a number of lesser-known indie projects.
(Originally published Jan. 15, 2008 at 4:09 p.m. PT)