Wes Bentley: RDJ’s openness about addiction helped save me from heroin

American Beauty is one of my favorite movies of all time, but it’s problematic and doesn’t hold up for that reason. It also stars complete POS Kevin Spacey, who has somehow avoided prosecution for his decades of crimes. Wes Bentley, then 21, starred as the quiet teen neighbor, dealing with an abusive father, falling in love with the neighbor’s daughter, and videotaping everything. Wes was unable to deal the fame that came from the role, and descended into a heroin addiction, working just enough to pay the bills and going broke. He got sober in 2009 through a 12 step program and started working again, most notably with a role in The Hunger Games franchise.

Wes, 44, is now starring on popular series Yellowstone. I’ve seen the first three seasons and he’s excellent as simpering lawyer and least favorite child Jamie Dutton. In a new interview with Page Six, Wes talked about how seeing Robert Downey Jr’s example helped him seek help. Wes has been open about his heroin addiction in the past and I appreciate how he framed it here.

Wes Bentley says that watching Robert Downey Jr. publicly open up about his past drug use inspired him to seek help for a crippling heroin addiction in the late-aughts.

“I was in the deepest throes of my addiction and in the worst place and at death’s door, I guess, or at risk of it and I saw him be so bold and brave and open and it saved me,” the “Yellowstone” actor told us at the Season 5 premiere in New York on Thursday.

Bentley — who’s been sober since 2009 — added, “So I thought if I do that too, I can maybe pass that on to somebody else.”

Bentley’s drug addiction began almost immediately after starring in the critically acclaimed 1999 film “American Beauty.”

“I never had money before,” the actor, 44, told us. “So there was a lot of combination of things I wasn’t prepared for.

“I also knew as an actor that I wasn’t going to be really ready to do good roles until in my 30s and 40s. So I didn’t really want it to happen like that too early. I tried to go with it and hang with it, but I wasn’t ready.”

In 2008, Bentley was arrested and pleaded guilty to heroin possession. He was mandated to 12-step programs but relapsed. Finally, in 2009, he met a guy who would help him kick his drug addiction for good.

“I met a guy who had been sober and didn’t know, that I was struggling,” the “Hunger Games” star told us. “He just talked about what a beautiful life he had now, and how he’s looking out the window at the trees, and I missed that. And I thought I want that back.

“So that’s how that happened. So I just went to meetings and the 12-step meetings really helped me a lot. I already had belief in God, so that kind of helps — the higher power thing…”

“I feel lucky that I’ve gotten a second chance,” he said.

[From Page Six]

We’ve lost so many people to addiction and I’m so glad Wes is sober and working again. I often think about what Wes’s Hunger Games replacement, Philip Seymour Hoffman, could have accomplished if he had more time on this earth. We just lost Aaron Carter and I don’t want to make any assumptions about how he passed although he struggled with addiction as well. When celebrities are open about their addictions it helps people know there’s no shame in reaching out, including other high profile people. Honestly I’d rather be sober and where I am right now than rich and famous and still a practicing alcoholic. I think about that sometimes, how precious sobriety is to me, especially when times are tough.

Photos credit: Image Press Agency/Avalon, ROGER WONG/INSTARimages.com/Cover Images, Media Punch

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10 Responses to “Wes Bentley: RDJ’s openness about addiction helped save me from heroin”

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  1. K says:

    I wish him well. Hes a talented guy. If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction there is hope and you can get your life back.

  2. Well Wisher says:

    Well said. Wes Bentley showed a lot of promise, he is delivering.

    Three words Philip Hoffman Seymour.

    One of the few non-Canadian actors that got one of the Canadian accents spot on.

    Once politicized, it is seen for some as what it is, a disease.

  3. Miranda says:

    When I was 5, I lost my mom to heroin, a vice that she managed to hide from everyone for years. For that reason, I will always appreciate those who are open about their past addictions because that can and will save lives. It will save other kids from growing up without one or both parents. I’ve found that people are especially uncomfortable talking about heroin, which seems to be viewed as the hardest, most degenerate drug out there, a drug that people think, “if they’re using that, there’s no way back for them”. Some think it’s so bad that people who overdose are doing society a favor. In general, it doesn’t elicit the same amount of sympathy as an addiction to prescription drugs (even though the use of one quite often leads to the other). So it’s no wonder that many addicts, like my mom, are so secretive and afraid to ask for help. It’s so important to have public figures like Wes and RDJ speak openly, to show that addicts aren’t wicked and Gollum-esque, and to be a witness to those suffering from the disease and their loved ones that it’s not a hopeless cause.

    • tealily says:

      I absolutely agree. I recently found out that someone I’ve known for a while used to use heroin. Knowing that they quit and seeing the life that they’ve made for themself gives me hope for anyone with an addiction. We need less shame and more examples of the paths people have taken out!

    • Christine says:

      I completely agree with you, Miranda, and I’m so sorry about your Mom.

  4. Jane says:

    I loved him in American Beauty (I was an impressionable 16 year old when I saw it in the cinema). I always wondered why he didn’t have more of a high profile career afterwards, because I think the next thing I saw him in, possibly the only other thing I’ve seen him in, was the Hunger Games. I’m glad he’s sober and doing so well.

  5. Jana says:

    I loved him in American Horror Story! It’s very brave for anyone to open up about their journey with addiction and sobriety, and it helps so many people who are struggling with their own journey.

  6. Jen says:

    Aaron Carter was also public about how ill he was with covid around 6 months ago. Even previously healthy people have died suddenly months after milder bouts of covid, but I have to imagine the health damage from addiction could have made him more vulnerable to the effects of covid both in the acute phase, and afterward. May he rest in peace.

  7. Miss Owlsyn says:

    I had no idea he had struggled with addiction. He was excellent in American Beauty, which yes is problematic as hell, and then I think I saw him in Ghost Rider and then he disappeared for a bit. I was happy to see him show up in American Horror Story because he is very talented and one of the things I appreciate about Ryan Murphy shows is that he makes room for people to have a career revival. I do wonder about how heroin and addiction was a theme in one of Wes’ seasons. I hope he was okay with those plot points.

  8. Tree says:

    Best Celebitchy post. Happy for Wes in his recovery. Heavy-hearted for all those we’ve lost, personally and otherwise.