Edward Furlong: the promise of Hollywood who shone in Terminator 2 but was lost in the hell of addiction

A stroke of luck, a role that made him an eternal child, a forbidden love, the hell of addictions and a past that allows him, today, to live a decent present. Edward Furlong came to the world of cinema pushed, without any conviction. He was 14 years old and his dreams had nothing to do with making it in Hollywood, but he was at the right time and in the right place, and by chance he found the best character he could get: John Connor, the teenager who would eventually become leader of the Resistance and therefore a favorite target of the insurgent machines in Terminators 2 (1991).

Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2, directed by James Cameron
Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2, directed by James Cameron

Furlong sealed his name in film history thanks to the success of the film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, a bet by James Cameron with a huge budget for the time, a film that critics treated with indifference but that millions of fans converted. into a cult piece because it revolutionized science fiction cinema. A luck that, without that deep and penetrating gaze and that innate talent for acting, he pulled him out of the well 30 years later and gave him a second chance. What happened in between?

Like John Connor, and perhaps hence some of his inspiration, Furlong grew up without a father figure. The actor was born on August 2, 1977 in the Californian city of Glendale, in a broken home. His mother, a Mexican named Leonor Tafoya Torres, worked at a youth center at the time; his father, Heinrich Bruno Wittig, died in 1980, in Canada. In addition, Edward lived for a time with his uncles, Nancy Tafoya and Sean Furlong -from whom the actor took his stage name-, before fame moved his family structure again.

In that situation he was first seen by renowned casting director Mali Finn, a woman with a fine-tuned intuition who, as soon as she met him, knew that she had a diamond in the rough in front of her. The meeting was at a youth club in Pasadena. Finn arrived there, frustrated because all the auditions she had done for the role of Connor had left her with little taste: she needed a boy with more “street”.

With the inexperienced actor in his hands, Finn assembled the main actors of the film. Nerves, at that moment, played a trick on Furlong: intimidated by Schwarzenegger’s presence, his first review of the lyrics he did with Linda Hamilton went wrong. Cameron considered moving on to the next applicant, but Finn insisted. Then, the director gave another opportunity because of his physical resemblance to Hamilton, and Furlong thus earned a direct ticket to success..

Thanks to John Connor, Furlong entered the world cultural scene through the front door: Terminators 2 Not only did it earn him the title of actor – and an MTV Award for Best Breakthrough Role and a Saturn Sci-Fi Award for Best Young Actor – it also made him a celebrity overnight. Overtaken by success, he took advantage of the streak and accepted the most tempting offers that came his way. He thus starred in a campaign for Calvin Klein and modeled for GAP, participated in an Aerosmith video clip and launched a musical career that Japanese girls fell in love with, even today. Such was his success that his debut song “Hold on Tight” surpassed Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in 1992 at No. 1 on the Japanese charts.

On the big screen, Furlong shone in both commercial cinema and independent productions. In 1992 she starred opposite Jeff Bridges two lost souls (1992), and earned a nomination for the IFP Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also starred our lost souls (1993) with Kathy Bates, Little Odessa (1994) with Tim Roth, The whisper of the grass (1995) with Walter Matthau, and Before and After (1996) with Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson. Then came a role that placed him on the list of the most versatile and complex performers of the moment: that of Danny Vinyard in the drama America X (1998), where he shared a cast with Edward Norton. That year she was also part of the successful comedy Pecker (1998), by John Waters, and his career began to sink after participating with Willem Dafoe in animal factory (2000) and in the Italian-French production I cavalieri that fecero l’printed (2001).

The success, the flashes and the fame he achieved from Terminators 2 they were too much for Furlong. While his parents and uncles were fighting for his custody and for his money, the young man began a love affair that instead of occupying the front pages of gossip magazines became a real scandal: the woman in question was Jackie Domac, his tutor on the set of Cameron’s film, 13 years older than him. Furlong was not only not intimidated by the criticism, but he went to live with her. He had just turned 15 and she was 28, and they used to show themselves very much in love in public.

Furlong with Jackie Domac
Furlong with Jackie DomacFrank Trapper – Corbis Entertainment

Furlong’s relationship with his tutor ended up breaking the actor’s bond with his uncles, who tried in vain to have Domac tried for rape and removed from his teaching position. The couple not only became established, but she became his manager. By the time they broke up five years later, the actor had already fallen into the clutches of drugs and alcohol.. The year was 1998 and Domac denounced the actor for abuse and claimed 15 percent of his earnings during the years he worked for him.

With the same speed that he became a star, Furlong’s personal life began to fall. “It was literally an overnight success, it was crazy. I’m still taking in the shock and awe of it all… I got into things that weren’t good for me for a long time. I was a child to whom many things happened at the same time. And I really couldn’t process it,” the actor acknowledged two years ago during a talk at the horror movie convention. Days of the Dead. “At the beginning of my career I remember that it was crazy for me. It’s crazy for a little kid to get that much power. Especially if you don’t have parents”, He acknowledged later in an interview with Forbes magazine.

The actor with his wife Rachel Bella, in 2005
The actor with his wife Rachel Bella, in 2005Mike FANOUS – Gamma-Rapho

His wandering path began with drug and alcohol abuse, which led him to rehab several times. The actor survived some episodes of overdoses, hospitalizations and even suicidal thoughts, and managed to stay sober in his late 30s. His love life, a torment for his partners, did not go well either: in 2006 he married actress Rachel Bella, his co-star in jimmy and judy (2006), who ended up asking for a divorce alleging domestic violence and assuring that her little son Ethan had tested positive for cocaine. For a long time, Furlong was able to see the child under the supervision of a social worker.. In addition, he spent several times in jail, paid bail and agreed to go to rehabilitation to obtain his freedom again.

In 2019, Furlong had a glimmer of hope when Cameron, in the comic-con of San Diego, vociferated that he would call him again to Terminator: Hidden Fate (2019). However, the actor’s contribution was so brief that he was left with a bittersweet taste.

In a chat with Alex Leyba uploaded to YouTube, he assured: “They struck me down! That was the role. I filmed for one day. And yes, we did do some CGI. They paid me. So, you know… It makes me feel bad, because I would have loved to have done a whole movie and made a lot of money. I would have loved to do more, but we’ll see what happens.”.

Edward Furlong, the guy from Terminator 2, a victim of excesses
Edward Furlong, the guy from Terminator 2, a victim of excessesFile, Archive

A few years before that return, in 2016, Furlong’s image was seen again after a long time. Very far from that young promise of rebellious impetus and defiant gesture, his deteriorated image went around the world. The same thing happened in 2020, when another postcard emerged, this time of him with former porn star Ron Jeremy, surrounded by drinks in the middle of a celebration.

Four years sober. 48 months. 1462 days. 35083 hours. On February 16 of this year, Furlong celebrated another day away from alcohol with his Instagram followers, the same medium he uses today to share his appearances at conventions on horror movies, comics and pop culture. Furlong is a kind of figurine of those encounters full of fans that turned sagas like Cameron’s or movies like animal graveyard 2 (1992) and Detroit Rock City (1999) in cult products: they pay him to attend, and he happily goes to sign autographs and talk about terminator.

Basically my job is to sit on my butt and sign autographs and let people tell me how awesome I am. The fact that he can do that is amazing and wrong at the same time.”, he said part jokingly and part seriously during one of those talks. “It’s a blessing, you know? I’m lucky. I’m so glad I’ve had a couple of things that have stayed relevant enough that I can still come and somehow make a living doing stuff like this. That’s kind of weird. I don’t take it for granted,” he later told Forbes magazine.

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