Edward Furlong's rocky career

Edward Furlong's rocky career -- How wealth and stardom have made a disturbing difference in the life of the ''Terminator 2'' star

By Susan Karlin Updated April 15, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

On Jan. 7, 1993, director Tony Bill sat down in his Venice, Calif., office and addressed a letter to Edward Furlong's agent. Bill had recently returned from the Utah set of A Home of Our Own, a family drama starring Kathy Bates as an impoverished mother of six. He wrote: ”Eddie Furlong didn’t choose the movies, the movies chose him and it has taken a heavy toll.” Bill, whose experience directing young actors dates back to 1980’s My Bodyguard, then described a child cut adrift. ”I found it astounding and dismaying,” he wrote, ”that in over eight weeks of shooting, not once did his guardians ask me about his performance, his abilities, or his problems.”

”Who’s taking care of this kid? At fifteen, he is certainly not,” the director wrote. ”(H)is guardians do just that: guard him from criticism, from hard work, from self-awareness.” Bill went on to urge ”a thorough regimen of physical exercise,” coordination therapy, and acting classes. And then he wrote: ”Be assured that I’m not criticizing Eddie. The deck has been stacked against him and he is truly a victim.”

Warnings don’t come any clearer. And 15 months later, his concern is still vivid. ”In 30 years,” Bill says now, ”I’ve never worked with a kid who was so clearly on a path to disaster.”

Furlong’s life has always had its private turmoil. When the casting director of Terminator 2 first spotted him standing on the steps of the Pasadena Boys Club in September 1990, Edward Walter Furlong was a guarded, slight 13-year-old boy whose mother, at a difficult point in her life, had recently let him live with relatives. One year later, the world knew him as the sweet-faced kid who taught Arnold Schwarzenegger how to act human, and Furlong had suddenly been launched into a Hollywood career for which he and his now-warring family had no preparation. His talents have continued to impress — in Pet Sematary Two, American Heart, and A Home of Our Own. But behind the scenes, Furlong has been at the center of a bickering triangle of guardians whose charges and countercharges concerning abuses of money and power make a textbook study of the ways in which a child actor can find himself with nobody to protect him. Among those vying for the role: