Before the advent of reality TV, it was the private life of the stars that served the same purpose for a star-struck audience. Child stars like Shirley Temple and Elizabeth Taylor, moreover, grew up in a surreal world elite permeated by the attention of their fans, and the same is true for the child stars of today. So it is not surprising that child star Corey Feldman, who appeared in a string of blockbuster hits in the 1980s, came to play an instrumental and pioneering role in the development of modern reality TV later in life.
Feldman’s introduction into the world of glamour follows the typical route of the Hollywood child star. He was actively promoted by both his parents from the age of three, and his mother acted as his manager for a long time. His father made a profession out of hunting child stars, using his own son’s example as a promotional model for his agency. Feldman notched up over 100 commercials during the 70s, notably for McDonald’s, Colgate and Apple Jacks. He also appeared in many top-flight TV series of the period including Mork and Mindy, Cheers, Bad News Bears and One Day at a Time.
After an inauspicious debut in the sci-fi comedy Time after Time (1979), Feldman made his first big splash in 1984 with the fourth installment of the Friday the 13th horror franchise. It was intended as the last but did so well at the box office that a further four more sequels were to appear. Another horror flick Gremlins appeared later in the year and became one of the highest grossing films of the year. The cult classic treasure hunting adventure The Goonies appeared the following year and cemented Feldman’s reputation as the most promising child actor in Hollywood. His most accomplished performance came in Rob Reiner’s teen elegy Stand by Me (1986).
The late teens is the time when the careers of child stars normally begin to flag due to uncertain career moves and image issues. But Feldman’s transition was a smooth one, mostly thanks to a serendipitous partnership with Corey Haim which developed after the success of the vampire flick The Lost Boys (1987). Of the same age, and sharing a Jewish background, the pair became teen idols and the highest paid of the kind in Hollywood. They went on to do 4 films together, including License to Drive (1988) and Dream a Little Dream (1989). Other notable credits for Feldman in this period were the Tom Hanks comedy The Burbs (1989) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990).
The real crisis for Feldman appeared in the early 90s when he faced a highly publicized struggle with drug addiction. His own predicaments allowed him to turn his attention to youth problems in general, making some low-profile films in this genre. From the same inspiration he turned to music, producing songs in the style of New Jack Swing. Notable successes include his debut album Love Left (1994) and Still Searching for Soul (1999), with his band Truth Movement.
However, it was with television that Feldman recovered part of the fame he enjoyed in the 80s. The Surreal Life, which first appeared in 2003, took the MTV format of The Real World a step further. Like its predecessor, it used documentary style footage to recreate the experience of a group of faded stars forced to live together, but it also went on to have real life events take place on the show. The highlight of the first season was Feldman’s marriage to Susie Sprague, who he had first met the year before in a nightclub.
The live marriage of Feldman created a stir and prompted producers to continue the story of the couple’s conjugal life in The Two Coreys, first aired in 2007. Moreover, it showcased the reunion of the two Coreys, having Corey Haim drop into the Feldman household as a long term guest. The show revolved around the conflicts of lifestyle between the two reunited stars.
The show ended the following year, two years before the untimely death of Haim. Feldman and Sprague divorced in 2009 after 7 years of marriage. The pair have a son together, now under the custody of his mother. Now aged 41 (2013), Feldman is a lifelong vegetarian and actively supports animal rights organizations such as PETA. He continues to make notable films such as the sequel to The Lost Boys in 2008, and making guest appearances in reality shows such as Dancing on Ice on UK television.