Actor James Hayden, who won critical praise
for his portrayal of a drug addict opposite Al Pacino in Broadway's "American
Buffalo," died yesterday, apparently of a drug overdose in his West Side
apartment, police said.
Hayden, 29, was speaking on the telephone with his estranged wife, Barbara
in California, when he collapsed at 3:50 a.m. in his l4th-floor apartment at
2025 Broadway, police said.
Mrs. Hayden called her husband's physician, Dr. Jacob Sperber of Manhattan,
who sent police and an ambulance rushing to the actor's apartment.
Emergency service police had to remove the lock cylinder from the front door
to get into the apartment. They found Hayden on the kitchen floor, still
clutching the phone in his hand. He was pronounced dead at 4:35 a.m.
On a kitchen table, police found a hypodermic needle, three glassine
envelopes containing, white powder, a cotton swab and a spoon. The items
were sent to a police laboratory for analysis.
The news of Hayden's death shocked his fellow cast members at the Booth
Theater, where "American Buffalo", the story of three Chicago drifters and a
botched robbery, opened, on Oct. 27. The play went on last night with
Hayden's understudy, John Shepard, playing the role of the childlike drug addict Bobby.
Pacino, a close friend of Hayden's, said he was "devastated... I love him
very much... we were close, especially over the last three years. I don't
want to think about it."
Asked whether he had known if Hayden was depressed or suffered from a drug
problem, Pacino, relied: "I didn't know a thing about it."
Theater critics lavishly praised Hayden's portrayal of Bobby.
In a recent interview with the Daily News, Hayden, a former Army paramedic
in Vietnam, said, "I saw a lot of soldiers come back home with bad drug
problems... the real casualty of the war was increased drug abuse here".
A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Hayden studied under
the late acting teacher Lee Strasberg. He won the Outer Circle Award last
year for his role in the Broadway production of "A View From the Bridge".
Hayden recently completed his first major role in a motion picture appearing
with Robert DeNiro in "Once Upon A Time In America," a gangster film
scheduled for release next April. By Mel Greene and Don Gentile with Pat