Among the most surprising announcements to come out of Comic-Con International this past weekend in San Diego was the official word that Edward Furlong was reprising his iconic role of John Connor. Furlong was a breakout star in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). But more than a decade of drug abuse and suspected domestic violence has derailed Furlong’s once promising career.
Furlong was a mere 14 years old when he found fame as the future leader of the human resistance. Starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, Furlong held his own in his debut big screen performance. He became an instant sensation as a teen heartthrob and a rising star in Hollywood.
Another Cursed Child Star
In a narrative that is repeated too often in Hollywood, Furlong became another young star to lose his way to drugs and violent crime. By the end of the 1990s, he’s known for hitting the L.A. part scene pretty hard and in 2001 Furlong is hospitalized for a suspected drug overdose.
Based on a timeline of trouble put together by the celebrity news agency E! Furlong’s troubles only got worse from there. He’s arrested multiple times between 2001–2006 for drinking and drug related offenses. Then Furlong’s behavior turned violent.
In April of 2006, he marries actress Rachel Kneeland in a union that would only last three years. In September of 2009, Furlong is arrested after going on a drug fueled rampage against Kneeland. The incident and subsequent arrest lands him in the psych ward of an L.A. hospital. He follows up that incident up with a profanity laden voicemail to Kneeland where he threatened her with all kinds of nasty violence.
By this point Furlong’s career has hit rock bottom and his legal troubles are mounting.
Also in 2009, Furlong met his soon-to-be second wife, actress Monica Keena. They were filming a straight-to-video release called Night of the Demons.
Drugs, Violence and Obscurity
Furlong’s days of starring in major motion pictures opposite big stars like Schwarzenegger, Edward Norton and Liam Neeson seemed long behind him. His drug habits and violent outbursts were well-known within Hollywood circles and most producers wanted nothing to do with him.
His marriage to Keena didn’t have a happy ending either with new allegations and another arrest for domestic violence. Keena sought and received an order of protection against Furlong, but in March of 2013 he was attacked her again and was arrested again.
This time Furlong was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
Later that same year, Furlong was arrested yet again on charges of violating an order of protection and domestic violence. He managed to avoid additional jail time by agreeing to drug and domestic violence counseling.
Although the above accounts are not considered an exhaustive retelling of Furlong’s many drug related incidents, he has managed to mostly stay out of the spotlight (for better or worse) over the past couple of years. He’s been spotted at a few smaller comic-con type events and there have been some fans who’ve interacted with him who claim he’s sober and reformed. What comes later this year may be the real test of where Furlong is both personally and professionally.
The Return of John Connor
For those who obsess over such nerdy things, it may have been the most surprising announcement to come out of Comic-Con 2019. Filmmaking icon and Terminator creator James Cameron announced via video to a packed room of raving fans that Furlong was reprising his role as John Connor in the forthcoming Terminator: Dark Fate.
If you’re not a huge fan of the Terminator franchise or you just need a refresher, here’s Connor’s bio from the Terminator wiki:
John Connor, the son of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese, is the leader of the worldwide human Resistance, as well as the more specialised Tech-Com. Skynet, the supercomputer mainframe of the machines, decides that John Connor is the focal point of the rebellion and his termination would end the opposition. After repeated failures at terminating John during the war, Skynet decides to use a time displacement device to send Terminators to various points in the past in an attempt to terminate him before the war even begins.
Prior to Cameron’s announcement, Furlong’s involvement was a closely guarded secret … or so it would seem. His name wasn’t included in any prior studio announcements, promotional materials, footage, etc. None of the film’s other stars (specifically Schwarzenegger and Hamilton) mentioned working with him again.
All of this points to the high probability that Furlong’s role is small, likely a cameo of sorts, and might have been a last minute addition. Reshoots are common for big films like Dark Fate and can typically take place about three months prior to the film’s release. It seems almost a certainty that any scene(s) with Furlong have been (or will be) added during reshoots.
Which makes the timing just about right. The last minute addition would also make sense since given Furlong’s checked past, approval for his casting likely went all the way to the top of the studio management. Either way, his inclusion in the film, no matter how big or small the role, is a major professional boost for Furlong.
The question that remains is how fans and the media should react?
Hollywood of the #MeToo Era
Sadly, there was a time in Hollywood when fallen stars could rise again without any real retribution for their past sins. Bad behavior could be all but forgotten if a star’s latest performance and project were good enough to draw the attention away from the his dark past. The chronicles of real life Hollywood is littered with such stories.
But since the #MeToo movement abusive men (including those accused but never convicted in a the courts) have been far less likely to simply step back out and pretend those prior incidents didn’t happen. It’s not enough to sweep away the ugly real violence with real victims the way big actors and their loyal fans like to conveniently forget bad films.
Real accountable has (and should) taken place for the most part. Which will leave both audiences and the media with some important decisions to make in regards to Furlong. Individuals will have to make their own choice on whether the troubled actor really deserves another chance in the court of public opinion.
But members of the media must take a more skeptical approach. It’s vital that journalists not let Furlong skate through an easy path to professional redemption without answering the tough questions about his prior personal choices. Specifically, it’s all on him to prove he’s no longer a drug abuser. More importantly, Furlong should be made to answer for the multiple accounts of violence against his ex-wives.
That means journalists have to start with those tough questions before diving into the softball crap about how he feels being John Connor again, working on a big film, etc. And any interviewer who avoids doing so should be called out as a coward and phony.
It may very well be that Edward Furlong is a changed and reformed man. I hope for one that he is. But the burden of proof is Furlong. We shouldn’t be willing to accept he’s changed simply because one filmmaker is giving him yet another second chance.
Terminator: Dark Fate is due in theaters on November 1, 2019
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