Previously Known For: Escape to Witch Mountain, Toy Story, The Princess Diaries and So Weird
|Currently Known For: Hiatus from Hollywood since the early 2000s|
“To infinity and beyond!” Despite lending his voice to characters in popular Disney films like Toy Story and Tarzan as well as his more popular roles in Escape to Witch Mountain, The Princess Diaries and Complete Savages, Erik von Detten hasn’t managed to find staying power in Hollywood. Instead, the former teen heartthrob once known for his surfer style and blonde locks hasn’t been spotted on the silver screen since his 2010 cameo in Toy Story 3, which has left many to wonder why and how the 35-year-old actor has fallen into Tinsel Town oblivion after such a promising start to his career.
The second of five children born to a German immigrant and his American wife, Erik Thomas von Detten came into this world on October 3, 1982. Nicknamed “Bear” as a kid, von Detten was enamored by his mother’s work as a photographer and dabbled in the arts on his own as he developed an appreciation for self-portraiture and landscape photography that would follow him into adulthood along with his interests in rollerblading and surfing. During this period, he also discovered his love of performing and found himself on the stage at an early age when, at nine years old, he made his feature film debut as a choir boy in All I Want for Christmas in 1991.
Although his part in the holiday film was small, von Detten was bitten by the acting bug and auditioned for his next part, the role of Nicholas Alamain on the NBC soap opera, Days of Our Lives. Despite his inexperience, he won the role and spent the next year on the series from 1992 to 1993 as his character became a key player in a major plot twist that involved him killing his father’s mistress. Talk about scandal! As viewers tuned in day after day to watch the plot unfold, it was impossible not to notice von Detten whose stellar performance left both critics and viewers wanting more.
“von Detten’s character pushed the woman, she fell, hit her head and died, which threw the show into a whole new storyline that von Detten remained an integral part of until his departure in 1993,” one critic wrote. “While other cast members died, came back to life, broke up, and made up several times over, von Detten moved beyond the boundaries of the small-town soap while the days of everyone else’s lives trickled like sands through the hourglass.”
Wrapping up Days of Our Lives in 1993 but not before he reprised his role as Nicholas Alamain in the television film, Night Sins, von Detten appeared in a string of made-for-television movies including In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride & Madness, A Season of Hope and Kidnapped: In the Line of Duty while lending his voice to Vic in an episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters in 1994. By then, he’d caught the attention of Disney who invited him to voice Sid Phillips in their 1995 blockbuster, Toy Story, which grossed over $370 million at box offices worldwide thanks to a star-studded cast including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Jim Varney and Don Rickles. von Detten followed up the hit film with his next Disney project, Escape to Witch Mountain and added in appearances in ER, The Bug Hunt, Life with Louie, and A Stranger to Love before lending his voice to a character in the 1997 animated film, Hercules.
With his career blossoming, von Detten continued to perfect his talents and starred in the ABC Family television film Christmas Every Day and made appearances in popular series like ER and 7th Heaven. In 1997, he auditioned for and won the part of Wally Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver and found himself back in the studio voicing Sid Phillips in Toy Story Treats in 1997, Erwin Lawson in Recess from 1997 to 2000, a jaguar in The Wild Thornberrys in 1998, and Flynt in Tarzan in 1999. By the new millennium, however, von Detten’s career shifted as his surfer-boy style and blonde locks earned him heartthrob status when he joined Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries in 2001.
Giving a stellar performance as the handsome jerk in the film, von Detten rode the wave of his growing success and enjoyed leading roles in television series like Odd Man Out, So Weird, Dinotopia, and Complete Savages. He also made appearances in and lent his voice to characters in As Told by Ginger, The Legend of Tarzan and Brandy & Mr. Whiskers. As for his work on the silver screen, he voiced characters in Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and Recess: All Growed Down and made appearances in American Girl, National Lampoon’s Barely Legal and Smile.
With his popularity waning by the mid-2000s, von Detten tried his hand at theater and made his stage debut in a production of The Christmas Princess in Santa Monica in 2007. He was spotted in Jessie James’ “Wanted” music video in 2009 and made minor appearances on television in episodes of Bones and Family Guy before he reprised his role as Sid Phillips, now a garbage truck driver in his 20s, in the 2010 Disney sequel, Toy Story 3, which is the last time anyone has seen or heard from von Detten over the past seven years. So, what’s the Hollywood scoop?
Now 35 years old, von Detten hasn’t given many updates as to what he’s doing or if he ever plans to return to Tinsel Town, which only leaves fans wanting more as one gossip column reported, “Now, we’ve got to admit that information about von Detten is very scarce. It’s clear from the lack of IMDB credits that von Detten has left Hollywood behind maybe not forever, but at least for right now.”
Fortunately, von Detten resurfaced in 2016 when he was photographed on the red carpet for the premiere of Adventures in Babysitting, an 80s classic that was remade and celebrated as one of Disney’s 100 original films. Although von Detten looked as dashing as ever, he refrained from sharing an update on his life, which leaves us to think that perhaps the “Erik von Detten” on Facebook who says he’s a broker with Rosland Capital in Marina del Rey isn’t truly him at all. Then again, anything’s possible as the former teen heartthrob might’ve exchanged a future on the silver screen for a suit and tie after all!