The Curse of Playing John Connor

By John Lavitt 02/12/14

How two young actors who played The Terminator hero have seen their careers destroyed by addiction.

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Furlong and Schwarzenegger in T2. Lionsgate Films

The breakthrough Hollywood role for both Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl was playing John Connor respectively in the first two sequels in The Terminator franchise. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), a 13-year old Edward Furlong became the young John Connor, and in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), a 23-year old Nick Stahl became the character as a young man living off the grid. Since those successes, however, both actors have seen their careers destroyed by the ultimate real-life terminator – drug addiction.

Since his first stint in rehab in October 2000, Furlong has struggled with drugs and various legal problems. Emancipated from his parents when he was 16, Furlong eventually became addicted to cocaine and heroin. In a comeback interview with People in 2006 he said, “I was a heroin and cocaine addict. It was really scary.” 

On July 1, 2013, following several domestic violence charges over the years, Edward Furlong barely avoided a long stint in jail. After serving 61 days in prison on another domestic violence charge, the actor agreed to go to rehab for drug addiction for 90 days, as well as undergo 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling. Still acting in “B” movies, his mainstream Hollywood career has yet to recover.

After making headlines by disappearing for several days in May 2012, Nick Stahl was reported to be addicted to methamphetamine. On June 28, 2013, the actor was busted in a Hollywood motel room at 5 a.m. smoking crystal meth. A friend who preferred to remain anonymous told Radar Online last year that “Nick’s playing with fire and desperately needs to get back into rehab.” Today, Stahl is trying to stitch his tattered career back together, shooting small independent films like Away From Here.

In the earlier sequels, the two young actors were protected respectively by a time-traveling Terminator played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The essence of James Cameron’s John Connor is a character being pursued in the present by the horrors of the future. In reality, both Nick Stahl and Edward Furlong continue to be pursued by the horrors of the addiction terminator.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.