NEW YORK (AР) - James Hayden, who played a
junkie on Broadway and died of an apparent drug overdose just hours after a
performance, was "one of the best young actors around" and on the verge of
stardom, his director says.
Hayden, who portrayed a drag addict opposite Al Pacino's small-time hustler
in "American Buffalo," was found dead early Tuesday in his Upper West Side
apartment with drug paraphernalia and a substance thought to be heroin,
After an autopsy, Medical Examiner Elliot Gross said the cause of death
required "further study," including chemical tests that would take several
The 29-year-old actor "was about to become a big star," said Arvin Brown,
director of the play. "I'm as convinced of that as I've been convinced of
anything since I directed Meryl Streep some years ago and had the same
feeling about her for many of the same reasons.
"You get a sense about an acting temperament, and when you hit it, that's
what you mean by talent," he said.
"He had an almost childlike vulnerability and acceptance of experience,"
Brown said. "He was a creature of mood swings, but the kind of creative mood
swings that make great acting. He was capable of great joy, he could get
Hayden's understudy, James Shepherd, replaced Hayden in Tuesday night's
performance. Pacino told reporters outside the theater that Hayden's death
was "a great loss to me personally to the play, and the world and the
Pacino's agent, John Springer, said Pacino "loved him (Hayden) very much.
They'd worked closely for three years." If Hayden was in fact using drugs, "Al
didn't know about it," Springer said.
According to police Officer Tony Vallelong, Hayden "started to fade" early
Tuesday as he talked by telephone to his wife, Barbara, who was in
California. After Hayden collapsed his wife called a physician, who called
Officers went to his apartment building at 4:30 a.m. and broke down the door
of his apartment, Vallelong said. They found his body near the substance
thought to be heroin and a hypodermic needle, a spoon and a cotton swab.
Asked if he knew if Hayden used drugs, Brown said, "We had absolutely no
indication of that. I feel I knew Jimmy pretty well, and I can't imagine for
one moment that an actor could give the performances he gave and have a
serious drug problem at the same time."
Earlier this month Hayden told The Daily News his portrayal of Bobby, a
childlike junkie, was partly based on his own memories.