The 1990s were loaded with child actors, but Edward Furlong was a unique case. Rather than accrue fame through family-friendly sitcoms or PG movies, he made a name for himself in Terminator 2: Judgment Day — an R-rated action flick.
Unfortunately, the actor then fell into same predictable trajectory as so many other child actors did. Riddled by years of alcohol and drug abuse, he managed to avoid death. But a full rebound in popularity still eludes the once-promising actor.
Edward Furlong Breaks Into Hollywood With a Breakout Role
Born in August 1977, the Southern California-based Edward Furlong decided to pursue acting in 1990. The following year, he garnered more success than any teen could possibly handle.
His aunt and her half-brother got custody of the young actor, shortly after his career began, according to a report that People magazine published in August 1991. Now, thanks to more awareness about the trappings that child actors often face, the custody and management arrangements had “big problem” written all over them.
But first came a dizzying amount of success.
For T2, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Robert Patrick all got billed before Furlong. But even to be discussed in the same breath as all larger-than-life actors naturally led to high expectations.
Furlong had a pivotal role in the sci-fi/action film. He played John Connor, a future leader who would perhaps save the human race from annihilation by self-aware robots. Furlong was only 15 at the time — meaning, technically, he couldn’t legally watch his first acting performance onscreen in the theater.
Judgment Day’s Muscular Box-Office Results
Thanks to James Cameron’s superb execution of the lengthy summer blockbuster, combined with never-before-used computer-generated special effects and the strapping Schwarzenegger’s massive box-office draw, T2 was the biggest movie of 1991 by a long shot.
T2 grossed more than $204 million, according to Box Office Mojo — far more than the second-place Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (roughly $164 million). (Incidentally, the third-highest-grossing movie of 1991 was Home Alone, the breakthrough role for Macaulay Culkin.
T2 was so big, in fact, that Edward Furlong even appeared on Saturday Night Live in a sketch spoofing the movie with a villain nicknamed “The Tooncinator.” Appearing on SNL involves a ton of pressure, especially for a kid.
But while Furlong nailed his audition for the role of John Connor, he was far more prepared to play that role than the part of an actor who struck gold way before he should have.
Edward Furlong Fizzles Out
It would be easy to simply categorize Edward Furlong as a one-time success story. But in reality, he appeared in at least one film each year from 1991 to 2019, save 1997, 2002, 2004, and 2018.
Unfortunately, most — if not all — of those films didn’t find an audience. Furlong’s second-best performance was likely in 1998’s neo-Nazi film, American History X, with Edward Norton. He also made two brief appearances in Seth Rogen’s The Green Hornet (2011), which almost took home $100 million.
After 2000, most of Furlong’s films went straight to DVD, as E! Online reported in January 2011.
Edward Furlong busied himself with more than just film roles during the many years in which he struggled. His rap sheet grew longer than his filmography.
Furlong told People magazine in an interview published in December 2006 that he had become addicted to both heroin and cocaine. He later revealed that meth was in the picture too.
“It was really scary,” he reportedly said.
During his drug-fueled years, Furlong also instilled fear into those closest to him.
In 2012, a judge ruled that a supervisor to be present during Furlong’s visits with his child, who had cocaine in his system at age 6.
Incidents involving domestic violence charges, restraining orders, jail terms, and rehab populated Furlong’s life from at least October 2000 to 2013.
“I f—ed over so many people when I was on drugs, gaining back the trust of the people that work with you when you’ve flaked on them so much is a long process,” Furlong told Daily Mail in July 2022.
Furlong’s Road to Recovery
After a series of unsavory events in 2013, Edward Furlong said later that year that he had re-dedicated himself to rehab. But in April 2018, he was back in rehab, as the National Enquirer reported.
As of this past summer, the actor has four years of sobriety under his belt. He called achieving sobriety “the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” according to ET Canada.
Furlong appeared, in the oddest of ways, in the latest Terminator installment, called Dark Fate and released in late 2019. He seems to appear in one of the movie’s early scenes — but it’s actually an amalgam of a voice actor, a body double, and a facial likeness responsible for Furlong’s “appearance” in the film.
Currently, Furlong is experiencing the longest movie drought of his career, although COVID could be partially to blame for that.
On Tuesday, the New York Post published photos of a barely recognizable Edward Furlong in New York. The magazine noted that he got new teeth earlier his year, due to decay from drugs.
But it may not matter what Furlong looks like or how his career is going. Most important of all, he isn’t dead or — one hopes — back in the throes of substance abuse.