“When I was a kid, the idea of why I wanted acting to be the thing I do for the rest of my life was different. It was, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get girls and be famous.’’ One of Hollywood’s most tragic stories of a teen idol falling from grace, Edward Walter Furlong seemed to have everything going for him in the early 1990s when, by pure luck, he was spotted by a casting director who invited him to audition for a part in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s next film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Having never given acting serious consideration after a troubled childhood, Furlong took his chances and won the part of John Connor in the 1991 film and never looked back, at least not until a series of arrests, alcoholism and substance abuse caused his life to spiral out of control.
Furlong was born in Glendale, California on August 2, 1977. With his parents divorcing shortly after his birth, his aunt and uncle adopted him as the young Furlong took to spending most of his free time at the local Pasadena Boys and Girls Club. Doing his best to stay out of trouble, Furlong was busy hanging out with his friends when a casting director named Mali Finn came into the club looking for a young man to play the part of John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. With Finn inviting Furlong to audition for the part, Furlong had never considered acting as a potential career but took a huge leap of faith and accepted the invitation.
Making his feature film debut in Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991, Furlong skyrocketed to stardom and earned a Saturn Award for Best Young Actor and an MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Role for his performance. Cashing in on his overnight fame, Furlong joined Hollywood greats like Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Vanessa Redgrave, Jeff Bridges and Clancy Brown in hits like Before and After, Little Odessa, American Heart and Pet Sematary Two. Along the way, he also saw his personal life flourish as the 15-year-old started a romantic relationship with Jacqueline Domac, his 29-year-old tutor. As many guessed, Furlong’s relationship with an older woman caused friction at home with Furlong filing for emancipation from his aunt and uncle, and later moving in with Domac, whom he hired to manage his career.
Although Furlong’s talents as an actor were undeniable with credits in The Grass Harp and Brainscan as well as a cameo in Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge” music video, nothing could stop the young actor from venturing down the dark path of addiction as his drug use and alcoholism spiraled out of control. Calling off his engagement with Domac in 1998, things continued to get worse for Furlong as Domac accused him of physical and verbal abuse just before suing him for payment after arguing that it was her hard work that landed him parts in Before and After, Little Odessa, American Heart and Pet Sematary Two. By then, there was very little left of Furlong’s career as the drama of his personal life far overshadowed his talents on the silver screen.
Known for taking on dark roles, Furlong attempted to revive his career with his first comedy, Pecker, which was directed by John Waters. “It’s true most of the characters that I’ve played so far are kind of like suicidal,” Furlong admitted. “Really dark roles, which I like. But I wanted to do something different and John Waters gave me a chance to do that.” Despite Furlong’s performance and his budding relationship with actress Natasha Lyonne, not even a comedy could rekindle his fame with fewer and fewer offers coming his way after less than stellar performances in Detroit Rock City and Animal Factory.
Amid his tragic fall from grace, Furlong showed hints of normalcy and even surprised himself when he celebrated his 21st birthday saying, “I never thought I’d reach 21. I used to feel that was old, but growing old doesn’t scare me anymore. I just want to have done something super special and have had someone to do it with.” Still struggling with abuse issues, Furlong declined the chance to reprise his role as Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and, instead, appeared in a string of direct-to-DVD films before entering rehab for the first time in October 2000 with the hopes of beating his heroin and cocaine addiction.
Spending six years on and off drugs, Furlong somehow managed to find work with minor spots in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, CSI: New York and Night of the Demons with frequent promises to remain sober only to fall off the wagon time and time again. “I don’t even think about partying anymore,” he admitted after getting sober in 2006. “It seems lonely now: running and clubbing and doing coke. I have nightmares about doing hard drugs. I’ll wake up and I’m like, ‘Did I relapse?’”
Seeing those nightmares come true with multiple relapses over the years, Furlong has been in and out of jail over the last decade, which has certainly taken a toll on his romantic life with actress Rachael Bella, whom he married in April 2006. Welcoming their son in September 2006, Furlong struggled to get his act together and left Bella no other choice but to file for divorce in 2009 after her son tested positive for cocaine after she left him in Furlong’s care for an afternoon. Reduced to only supervised visits, not even losing custody of his son has pushed Furlong into sobriety.
Over the last few years, Furlong has taken whatever work he can find to pay child support with cameos in Dark Reel, Stoic, Darfur and Night of the Demons before snagging a bit part as Mr. Tupper in the 2011 feature film, The Green Hornet. Sadly, not even the superhero flick could revive his career as Furlong is known as the kiss of death for a film’s success with appearances in unknown flicks like Below Zero, Witness Insecurity, Crave, The Zombie King, Aftermath, and A Perfect Vacation.
Today, the 40-year-old is the first to admit that his journey has been anything but easy especially as he continues to fight his addictions as well as a long list of legal issues and his floundering career. And yet, he remains hopeful saying, “It hasn’t been a totally smooth road, but in the whole span of things, I feel like a very lucky person.”