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Barrett Oliver

Posted by Anthony Langlois

Some say he was the most talented child-actors of the 80s, who was on his way to become a major Hollywood player, and inevitable multi-millionaire. But after only 3 years of stardom, something changed and he pulled one of the greatest disappearing acts in movie history, never to come back.

Barrett Spencer Oliver was born in LA on August 24 1973. When a family-friend connected to the Biz "plugged" his big brother Kyle, in the late 70's, little Ollie decided on his own that he too wanted to be on the telly! Appearances in commercials (especially for Jell-O with The Coz) quickly led to juvenile guest parts in TV shows, like "Battlestar Gallactica" and "Knight Rider". In 1982 alone, he was on the big screen in 3 different movies, before competing with 200 boys for a little fantasy movie called "The Neverending Story". Rejected for signs of immaturity, he was re-called 6 months later, when no suitable young man could be found, this time performing a knock out audition for director Wolfgang Petersen.
The film was released in 1984, and young Oliver was fast becoming an international star.

His increased exposure put him in the path of another former child-sensation, director Ron Howard (sometimes known as Opie). Howard was casting for 'Cocoon' when he saw "Neverending story", and quickly cast this younger version of himself as the movie's only child among a cast of geriatrics. . In many promotional interviews, he spoke warmly of his bond with the director, and how he was taken under his wing. "Cocoon" was an instant heartwarming classic that even picked up 2 Oscars

His already hot status made him an easy choice for a much-anticipated sci-fi project called "D.A.R.Y.L.", in 1985. Despite a deceiving tenure at the box-office, the movie, about a cybernetic child trying to fit in with a human family, generated the highest acclaims for Barrett. Ironically, the experience left him with a bitter taste, and signaled a change of heart over his acting career. Not that he became arrogant or developed an oversized ego, but he realized, according to some of his cast mates, that child actors are seen, by director and adult actors, only as a tool for easy-money, and treated as such. The fact that becoming a teenager eroded his child-like cuteness only deepened the feeling.

Now at 12, the young man decided to concentrate mainly on school, and started to refuse offers. He did return for a sequel to "Cocoon" (a lousy attempt to cash-in on the original's success), in 1988. The very next year, he would show audiences another side of himself. In "Scenes From The Class Struggle In Beverly Hills", starring Jacqueline Bisset, he plays a terminally ill teen that gets to fulfill his sexual fantasies. Whether he liked the role or not, it would be his last ever acting performance. After that, he completely vanished, without even a message to his fans, or an interview to explain why.

Such a complete and abrupt disappearance gave way to a wide variety of wild and persistent rumors, giving the young man a mythical status. Some said that he fell into drug-related problems, others that he got into religion (his father is said to be a Scientologist). Some tabloids even reported his involvement in some grizzly murder case. Not once did Barrett submerge to confirm or deny these rumors, or even give a clue on his whereabouts. An anonymous Internet poster, claiming association with him, stated a few years ago that he wanted his legend to live on, and so allowed false reports to continue.

The first CONFIRMED update on his life came in early 2004. According to IMDb, Barrett Oliver is now a Photography teacher in California, and one of the last disciples of the 19th Century "Wet Plate" photo technique. He apparently holds workshops and demonstrations about the craft, and has even written articles on the subject. One fan who visited his photo exhibition in California wrote on a fansite that "He has a full beard, wears glasses and has long hair. His voice was recognizable, he wasn't really tall, and spoke quietly."

Whatever happened to him? He simply left, and doesn't show any signs of regrets or desire to come back. But if he ever did, would his fans forgive him for neglecting them so nonchalantly?

By the way…
He was mistakenly thought to have committed suicide in 2003. Many people confused him with the star of the SECOND "Neverending Story", Jonathan Brandis, who did take his own life last year, at the age of 27.





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