Early Wednesday morning (March 10), actor Corey Haim was pronounced dead at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, California, as a result of an apparent drug overdose. He was 38 years old.
Without making light of the tragedy, in a lot of ways his death mirrored the last three decades of popular culture. His meteoric rise to fame, his struggles with substance abuse that led to his downfall, his newfound sobriety that sparked an attempted comeback (which was, of course, captured for a reality TV show), and finally, the sad events of Wednesday morning are symbolic of the era. He lived his life both in and out of the spotlight, dealt with the pressures of fame, and, in death, may even serve as a cautionary tale about both. Here’s a look back at a career that had just as many highs as it did lows, a career that reflects our culture a whole lot more than you’d probably care to imagine.
Like many of today’s teen stars, Haim’s first brush with fame came on the small screen, in a Canadian TV program called “The Edison Twins,” followed by a role in the 1984 Sarah Jessica Parker/ Robert Downey Jr. vehicle “Firstborn.” He continued to work in both film and TV and landed the title role in 1986’s “Lucas,” which earned him raves and thrust him directly under the glare of the spotlight. The following year, he starred in Joel Schumacher’s “The Lost Boys,” a vampire flick that, through repeated VHS viewings, would go on to become a Gen X favorite. The movie also teamed him with Corey Feldman, and the two began a partnership — and friendship — that would thrill teenage girls and delight tabloid editors for years to come.
Dubbed “the Coreys,” the duo were the latest in string of A-list Hollywood tandems that had run the town for decades (and continues to do so today), and stoked their newfound fame — and heartthrob status — in a series of buddy pictures, including “License to Drive” and “Dream a Little Dream.” They became a commodity, a way for studios to sell pictures to international distributors even before they were shot … something on-par with the phenomenon currently surrounding the cast of the “Twilight” series.
“In many ways, they’re analogous to the ’Twilight’ thing, to the success of a movie not being driven by great acting, but rather, driven by teen love for these characters,” David Poland, editor of MovieCityNews.com, told MTV News. “They ended up in the Tiger Beat world, which we can see today in what’s happening to the Robert Pattinsons and the Taylor Lautners of the world. The Coreys had success and something people envied, but at the same time it was empty. … It was a phenomenon where the industry could use them as bait and try to create a culture around them.”
Offscreen, their hard-partying ways made them mainstays in the tabloids. They were Paris and Nicole nearly a decade before the Internet even existed.
“The Coreys were BFFs before the term had even been coined. They were inseparable in the way we’ve seen the Parises and Nicoles, ’The Hills,’ or even the Kardashian sisters,” Bonnie Fuller, former editor of Us Weekly and current president and editor-in-chief of HollywoodLife.com, told MTV News. “They had adventures together, both onscreen and off. You never thought of one without the other. … They were like the toast of the town, they were riding high. They were kids making money, they were celebrated and they could get into every club, every party in town.”
The good times began to end as the ’80s drew to a close, as both Haim and Feldman struggled with drug addiction — Feldman was arrested in 1990 when, after a traffic stop, police found heroin in his possession — and both men underwent very public stints in rehabilitation facilities. The treatments didn’t work because, as Haim told MTV News in 2007, “I was doing it for everyone else … everyone but me.” As Haim’s career began to stall, he started a precipitous — and very public — fall from grace, including a 1993 arrest for wielding a replica handgun during a dispute with a business manager. In 1996, he was sued for $375,000 for pulling out of the film “Paradise Bar,” and, in 1997, at the age of 25, he was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
These days, we’re well-versed in such tumbles (everyone from Britney Spears to Lindsay Lohan has clocked a stint in rehab), but back then, this was huge news: Stars rarely melted down to this degree, or at least they didn’t do it while the rest of the world watched.
“He disappeared off the radar, because he was having so many drug issues, he was in and out of rehab, and I think that was emblematic of what can happen in Hollywood, and particularly to child stars,” Fuller said. “Most people are not equipped to cope with that amount of fame, period, but to be young and have that much fame, and then to have it go away, most people can’t recover from that. They weren’t trained in any other profession, they didn’t go to school, and they have nothing to fall back on.”
As stories of his drug use continued to spread, Haim’s movie roles began to dry up. He starred in a series of direct-to-video films, including “Blown Away” (alongside Feldman), and “Oh ,What a Night,” and was in and out of rehab — according to some reports, he logged more than 15 stints in drug-treatment facilities. In 2001, he was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica after reportedly suffering a drug-induced stroke.
He eventually moved back to his native Toronto, got sober and in 2007, signed on to do “The Two Coreys,” an A&E reality show that detailed his personal struggles, his relationship with Feldman, and the trials and tribulations the two endured during the making of “Lost Boys: The Tribe,” a sequel to the 1987 film. It appeared that a comeback was in the works, though, as it turned out, Haim was only briefly featured in the movie, and “Coreys” was canceled midway through its second season.
“Apparently, he was fired during [production of the film], was doing drugs and didn’t show up. This town can be extremely cold, and you lose your friends easily. And when you’re a drug addict, no one wants anything to do with you,” Poland said. “Couple that with the fact that, on some level, every actor does what he or she does because they want the attention, which is why, when he decided to get better, he did it on TV, which is almost impossible to do.”
Haim did continue to work, however, and at the time of his death, he had several films in production. And while his films of the 1980s have certainly earned him a permanent place in pop-culture lore, it’s everything that happened to him since — his fall, his struggles, his comeback — that resonates most clearly these days. Because we have seen (and still are seeing) the stars of today battle with the same demons, take the same tumbles, and attempt the same comebacks. But these issues aren’t played out over the course of years or even months, rather, they unfold with each passing second. Even Haim realized this and took great sorrow in his inability to control his situation.
“It’s like seeing a young male me, or a female me … I feel for them. There’s nothing I can say except a person’s got to go through what they’ve got to go through,” Haim said in 2007 of current teen stars’ issues. “When you’re young and you have money, you become the CEO, automatically, of life, of your family. … I don’t have much advice [for them] except to take it very slow. It’s not even day-to-day anymore, it’s emotion-to-emotion, second-by-second. Just take it real slow. This is a tedious process. And it’s an expensive mistake to make.”