Being a star in Hollywood is not always the glamorous life people assume it to be; what’s even more challenging than being a star in Hollywood is being a child star in Hollywood. These children grow up into a world where people are always anticipating the day they put a foot wrong. That would be enough to drive anyone crazy. Growing up is nearly a crime in itself as far as many of these kids are concerned. Young children are often encouraged by their parents to pursue careers in entertainment; unfortunately, many are too young to really understand what they are getting themselves into. These young stars grow up expecting the level of praise they received as children to continue throughout their lives. However, when they begin at the top, there’s only one place to go from there…
If history is anything to go by, this level of pressure from such a young age, more often than not leads to tragic circumstances. It is a rare occurrence these days that we find a child-star who has not gone down a rocky path in one way or another. The young stars on this list can be considered amongst the most tragic of all as not only were they exposed to this lifestyle, they were never given the chance to grow old and experience a more stable, normal life. Some of these stars tuned to drugs and alcohol while others took their own life; some stars on the list died of natural causes but each case listed is tragic in its own right. Nevertheless, the memory of these twelve stars will continue to live on due to all they accomplished in their short but spectacular lives.
12 River Phoenix
The child-star of movies such as ‘Explorers’ and ‘Stand by me’ passed away on the 31st of October 1993. Phoenix's death occurred outside the Viper Room Music venue in Los Angeles, which was owned by Johnny Depp at the time. The 23-year-old was said to have drank a ‘speedball’ mixture of heroin and cocaine, which led to a tragic overdose. The star had a history of drug abuse and friends and family had become concerned about his health in days leading up to the incident. Phoenix was every bit deserving of his ‘teen idol’ status as he was even nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 1989 movie ‘Running on Empty.’ The bright future that lay ahead of this star makes his death all the more tragic.
11 Brad Renfro
Brad Renfro shot to fame when he was eleven years old due to his role in ‘The Client’ and went on to appear in over twenty movies. Unfortunately, Renfro passed away in 2008 at the age of twenty-five after spending the previous years in a vicious cycle of drugs and drinking. The actor was discovered on the 15th of January in his Los Angeles apartment. Renfro’s exact cause of death was ruled an accidental overdose due to a combination of heroin and morphine. Sadly, less than three weeks after the actor’s death his grandmother whom he was very close with and who had accompanied him during his early acting days also passed away.
10 Rob Knox
The ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ actor known for his role as Marcus Belby was stabbed to death in 2008 when he was just 18; the incident took place in Sidcup London outside the Metro Bar. Tragically Knox was trying to protect his younger brother who was being threatened by two men with knives. Knox was on the cusp of a promising career and had signed a contract to appear in ‘Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows’ which was released in 2010. His killer Karl Bishop was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum twenty year non parole period.
9 Bridgette Andersen
Andersen, best known for her role in the 1982 movie ‘Savannah Smiles’ died at age 21 due to drug abuse. Andersen is said to have struggled with heroin addiction throughout her teenage years and to have been estranged from most family members. Sadly, at the time of her passing Andersen was holding down a job at a health food store in Los Angeles in an attempt to help herself stay clean. Unfortunately, the actress’s addiction got the best of her and she died in May 1997 from a lethal overdose of heroin and alcohol. Andersen's death was ruled an accident.
8 Lee Thompson Young
The star who was became famous for playing Jett Jackson on the Disney Channel hit ‘The Famous Jett Jackson’ and his role in the ‘Friday Night Lights’ movie was found dead at the age of 29. At the time of his death Young was appearing the police drama ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ and suspicions were raised when he never turned up to filming. Later that day the star was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment after suffering a gunshot wound to the head. Young’s death was ruled a suicide as the injury was said to be self-inflicted. Young was known to have a history of mental illness including depression and bipolar disorder.
7 Skye McCole Bartusiak
The actress who is probably best known for her roles in movies such as ‘The Patriot’, ‘Don’t Say a Word’ and ‘Kill Your Darlings’ along with the TV Show ‘24’ passed away from an accidental drug overdose in 2014. McCole Bartusiak’s boyfriend is said to have discovered the actress sitting up in bed; although numerous attempts were made to resuscitate the young actress, it was too late. Although the official cause of death is labelled an overdose, the actress' mother holds that the epileptic seizures her daughter had begun suffering prior to her death, played a role in her passing.
6 Josh Ryan Evans
The young actor who became famous for his role of Timmy in the soap opera ‘Passions’ passed away when he was just twenty years old. Evans died on the 5th of August 2002 during complications that occurred due to a congenital heart condition. Evans had a long medical history as he suffered from achondroplasia, a specific form of dwarfism; this allowed him to play the role of a much younger character. Oddly enough, on the same day of Evans passing, the episode of Passions in which Timmy died was aired. Originally, Evans was to remain on the show as Timmy was to make appearances as an angel. However, this plan was no longer to go ahead after Evan’s death but in a strange twist of fate one episode depicting Timmy as an angel had already been filmed. This episode was aired and acted as a concluding passage to both Evan’s life, and the character he played.
5 Jonathan Brandis
Brandis, who was most celebrated for his role on the NBC hit ‘SeaQuest DVS’ sadly passed away when he was just 23 years old. The star who also appeared in movies such as ‘It’ and ‘The Never Ending Story 2’ was found hanging in his Los Angeles apartment on the night of the 11th of November 2003. Brandis was immediately rushed to hospital but tragically succumbed to his injuries the following day. Although there was no suicide note left behind by Brandis, friends and family claim he was depressed about his dwindling career in the years leading up to his death and longed for the return of his past success; this is considered the most likely explanation for the star’s suicide.
4 Brittany Murphy
Brittany Murphy who rose to fame as a teen in the 1995 cult classic ‘Clueless’ sadly passed away in 2009 at the age of 32. Murphy is said to have collapsed in the bathroom of her home on the morning of December 20.th Emergency serviced were called to the scene and attempts were made to resuscitate the star. She was then rushed to a nearby hospital but unfortunately passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest. Murphy’s death was labelled as being caused by a combination of pneumonia and anemia; however, the prescription drugs she was taking to treat lung problems are thought to have played a role. Although the death was ruled as natural, there are still strange circumstances surrounding it as only five months after Murphy’s death, her husband Simon Montauk died in a very similar fashion in the same bathroom in which his wife collapsed.
3 Anissa Jones
The child star famous for her role as Buffy on the CBS sitcom ‘Family Affair’ died on August 28th 1976. She was eighteen years old. In the years leading up to her death the star had a very difficult relationship with her mother and after receiving her royalties from Family Affair when she turned eighteen, she began a downward spiral. Jones died from a massive overdose that included barbiturates, phencyclidine, methaqualone and cocaine. Jones was asleep in a bedroom at a friend’s party when the incident occurred; paramedics were called but attempts to save her life were to no avail. Strangely, Jones’s bother also died of a drug overdose eight years after his sister’s death.
2 Heather O’ Rourke
The beloved ‘Poltergeist’ star passed away in 1988 due to complications that occurred during surgery to remove an acute bowel obstruction. She was just 12 years old. There is much controversy surrounding Heather’s death as it is highly likely it could have been prevented had doctors not misdiagnosed her condition when she initially fell ill in 1987. At the time Heather was thought to have Chrome’s disease and was prescribed steroids; although her health rallied for a short while, she later became ill on February 1st 1988 and suffered a heart attack. Heather was resuscitated at the time but died later that day due to suffering a second heart attack during her surgery. Her exact death is labelled cardiac arrest caused by sceptic shock due to intestinal stenosis. Many conspiracists consider Heather’s death to be a part of ‘The Poltergeist Curse’ which is based on the fact the movie saw the most recorded deaths of cast and crew members, during and around it’s filming.
1 Judith Barsi
Barsi who became famous for her role in movies such as ‘Jaws 2: The Revenge’ ‘The Land Before Time’ and ‘All Dogs go to Heaven’ was the victim of a murder- suicide carried out by her Father in 1988. Barsi was only 10 years old when her Father Josef took a gun to her head while she slept; he then proceeded to murder her mother Maria but was said to have wandered around the family home for a further two days before eventually turning the gun on himself. Barsi was said to have suffered a long history of abuse from her father and as her fame increased he regularly threatened the lives of both she and her mother. There is controversy surrounding Barsi’s death as after breaking down during an audition, her case was reported to Child Protective Services but was dropped almost immediately as her mother claimed she was beginning divorce proceedings. However, the divorce never happened and this devastating incident occurred instead.