Child star of 'The Client' found dead after battle with drink and drugs

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The Independent US

The American actor Brad Renfro, whose Hollywood career started at the age of 12, was found dead yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 25.

Renfro, from Knoxville, Tennessee, made his screen debut opposite Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones in the 1994 mystery thriller The Client, but his career had recently become eclipsed by his public battle with drugs and alcohol. He had reportedly had been drinking with friends the previous evening.

The cause of death was not immediately known, but an autopsy was due to take place next week, according to Craig Harvey, the chief investigator for Los Angeles County Coroner's office.

Despite his considerable professional successes – he made 14 films in just over a decade and starred alongside Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro – Renfro had become better known for his legal troubles and charges of drug possession than for his acting abilities by the time he died.

He served 10 days in jail in May 2006 after pleading no contest to driving while intoxicated and guilty, in 2005, to attempted possession of heroin. He had tried to buy the drug from an undercover police officer.

Other brushes with the law included being charged, in 1998 when he was 15, with possession of cocaine and marijuana, but he managed to avoid jail in a plea deal. He was placed on probation in January 2001 and ordered to pay $4,000 for repairs to a yacht, which he and a friend had attempted to steal in Florida. Renfro was arrested again in May that year and charged with underage drinking, and a year later, was ordered into an alcohol rehabilitation programme for violating his probation.

He confessed to a desire to "clean up" after one court appearance, saying he was "tired of paying the consequences" for drinking and drug use.

Renfro's lawyer, Richard Kaplan, said that he did not know whether the death was connected to problems with addiction. "He was working hard on his sobriety. He was doing well. He was a nice person," said Mr Kaplan.

Renfro had only just finished filming a role in The Informers, an adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel starring Winona Ryder and Billy Bob Thornton.

Renfro's rise to fame began at the age of 10, when the casting director Mali Finn selected him for a part in Joel Schumacher's The Client, based on the best-selling John Grisham novel. The film became one of the highest-earning for that year and earned Renfro acclaim from film directors and critics alike.

In 1995, he won The Hollywood Reporter's "young star" award and was nominated as one of People magazine's "Top 30 Under 30".