Whether you discovered it upon release or watched it after unearthing a dusty VHS from a shelf in your old bedroom, The Neverending Story is a staple of vintage childhood movies. If you're lucky, you've also seen The Neverending Story 2, in which the hero Bastian Bux returns to Fantasia and continues on his adventures with the Childlike Empress.
Diving down this nostalgia hole, you might remember Jonathan Brandis, who started acting at an age when most of us were learning to read, rising to fame as part of the seaQuest cast, and one of the most beloved #NeverendingStory characters: Bastian in Neverending Story 2. His rise to fame was a fast but tragic one, with the actor unfortunately joining the 27 Club in 2003.
Whatever Happened To Jonathan Brandis?
Born in Connecticut, #JonathanBrandis started appearing in TV commercials when he was as young as 4, before getting his first role on a soap opera composed by Snoop Dogg, One Life to Live, when he was just 6. In classic child star fashion, his potential convinced his family to move to LA a few years later, and his breakthrough finally came with his casting as Bastian in The Neverending Story 2.
Soon after, he was cast as the main character Bill Denbrough in the famous 1990 adaptation of Stephen King's IT that also included Tim Curry. It's now been rebooted with Jaeden Lieberher in Brandis's role.
But his true rise to stardom came with his role in the hit TV series seaQuest DSV, a popular science fiction show produced by Steven Spielberg that ran from 1993 to 1996. Brandis joined the seaQuest cast as Lucas Wolenczak, a young prodigy role that soon allowed the actor to become the ultimate teenage heartthrob.
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It was reported that he was escorted by three security guards on the set of seaQuest, and received as many as 4,000 fan letters a week at the height of his popularity. During his time on the show, he continued appearing in other movies and series, joining the Ladybugs cast and voicing Mozenrath in Disney's animated Aladdin series.
However, the speed at which he'd gained roles as a child started subsiding soon after seaQuest's cancellation in 1996. He got one of the main roles in Bad Girls, but the movie was only released years after it was shot in 2000. His part in the 2002 movie Hart's War, meanwhile, was significantly cut from the final edit.
Jonathan Brandis Committed Suicide In 2003
At 27, Jonathan Brandis took his own life by hanging himself in the hallway of his Los Angeles building on November 11, 2003. Though he was found and taken to the hospital, he later died of his injuries. Since he didn't leave a suicide note, there's no way of knowing if he was desperate for more success or, to the contrary, a victim of the pressure of fame.
According to People, his friends had been aware that he was feeling "lonely and depressed" because of his career, and that he'd been heavily drinking. Whether he refused to get help or wasn't taken seriously enough to be encouraged to do so will never be clear; it seems his friends and co-workers were all convinced of his talent and potential. Robert Katz, who was a producer on Brandis's last movie Puerto Vallerta Squeeze, told People:
"When we were in the editing room looking at him, we all said, 'This guy's going to have a big career.'"
Where you a fan of Jonathan Brandis? What was your favorite character he played?