Wes Bentley: There's Life After Heroin Addiction

By Victoria Kim 12/04/14

Bentley became a star after American Beauty, but quickly fell into a decade-long battle with heroin addiction.

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Heroin addiction is the devil, but there’s hope said actor Wes Bentley to HuffPost Live’s Ricky Camilleri on Monday.

“There’s a stigma that it’s the one you can’t beat, and it is an awful one,” said Bentley, who made a name for himself with his breakout role in the 1999 Best Picture winner American Beauty. “It is the devil. It’s a beast, and it creates a beast out of you. But that’s partly why I wanted to talk about it, because there’s people out there who are still addicted, and they might not think you can get past it either. But I want to show them that you can.”

After American Beauty, Bentley effectively disappeared, appearing only in the occasional low-profile movie or short film, making just enough money to continue doing drugs. In retrospect success came too easy, he told The Hollywood Reporter.

At 21, he found himself presenting at the Oscars in the surreal aftermath of the film’s release. He began using drugs to escape expectations, and that his heroin addiction “happened in a matter of days.”

His heroin addiction stalled his career, and caused him to pass on opportunities to work with Tim Burton, Ang Lee, and Tony Scott. “I put up such a wall that I didn’t even go and meet with these great directors whom I respected and admired so much,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Upon returning to Hollywood, Bentley realized that it wasn’t “the scary thing I’d made it up to be.”

“I had created this big monster in my head. I thought there were a bunch of people who just wanted to feed off of me,” he told Camilleri. “I realize that’s not true. It was just all so foreign to me. Being from where I’m from and just starting to act, I didn’t know what it was, and that was enough to terrify me at the time.”

Since his comeback, which he described as “starting anew in the truest sense,” Bentley has appeared in the Hunger Games franchise, American Horror Story, Interstellar, and the new film, After The Fall.

On heroin addiction, Bentley's message is about hope: “I mean, I have to work on it every day still, as you know, but I just want people out there to know…that it is beatable and you can live an amazing, happy life.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr