Teen Star Jonathan Brandis Died Tragically Young After His Career Dipped

Jonathan Brandis died at just 27 years old after a prominent career as a teen idol.


Apr. 15 2024, Published 11:26 a.m. ET

Jonthan Brandis at the premiere of 'Die Hard: With a Vengeance.'
Source: Getty Images

If we've learned anything in recent years, it's that not enough attention is often paid to the wellbeing of child actors. Young people are incredibly vulnerable in Hollywood, which is why so many former child stars struggle as they enter adulthood. One prominent example of that trend comes from Jonathan Brandis, a former child star who died more than 20 years ago.

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Jonathan, who started his career as a child model before eventually earning roles in One Life to Live and then the 1990 miniseries adaptation of It, unfortunately died when he was just 27 years old. Here's what we know about what happened to him.

Jonathan Brandis in 'The Neverending Story 2.'
Source: Getty Images
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What happened to Jonathan Brandis?

On Nov. 11, 2003, Jonathan was found hanged in the hallway of his Los Angeles apartment. He was hospitalized, but died the next day after succumbing to injuries related to his hanging.

No foul play was suspected in the case, and it was ultimately determined that Jonathan had died by his own hand. He did not leave a note, but friends remarked after his death that he had been depressed in the years leading up to his death.

After a promising career as a young actor, including a starring role in seaQuest DSV, Jonathan's career had petered out as an adult. He continued to work intermittently, including a small role in the 2002 film Hart's War. Jonathan reportedly believed that the movie would be the beginning of a comeback in his career, but was ultimately disappointed by how much his role had been cut down in the final film.

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Jonathan's father doesn't blame Hollywood for his death.

Although Jonathan was depressed about his career at the time of his death, his father Greg Brandis said that he had other mental health problems.

"Jonathan was very smart and he was very polite and always easygoing," Greg said in 2021. "In a sad way, he was probably bipolar. [His death] wasn't due to the entertainment industry. I look back now, and in his 20s, he showed signs of manic depression. I hope that anyone suffering can go get help."

Source: YouTube
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Greg added that he still talks to his son, even though he's been gone for years.

"I talk to him and it makes me smile," he says. "I get the feeling he's looking down at me."

Jonathan's death was undoubtedly a tragedy, and it's one that many who knew him have had to come to terms with in the decades since his death.

Regardless of exactly what mental health challenges Jonathan may have faced in the years prior to his death, it's clear that he didn't get the help that he needed. He may have been dealing with depression, but there's no reason that depression had to be as debilitating as it ultimately was.

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Thankfully, the stigmas around mental health have improved substantially in the years since Jonathan's death, so much so that anyone who needs treatment should be completely unafraid of saying that out loud.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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