The life and tragic death of "Jeremy" from the classic Pearl Jam video


In 1992, Pearl Jam released director Mark Pellington's fantastically dark video above for the song "Jeremy." (Pellington was also the creator of MTV's incredible avant-garde documentary video series Buzz that I've posted about previously.) Actor Trevor Wilson was only 12 years old when he portrayed the troubled student in the "Jeremy" clip. Most of the world last saw Wilson on screen with Pearl Jam at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards before he totally disappeared from the public eye. Turns out, Wilson drowned last August while on vacation in Puerto Rico. Over at Billboard, my pal Gil Kaufman tells the "Untold Story of Video Star Trevor Wilson's Fascinating Life & Tragic Death:"


Cinematographer Tom Richmond remembers sitting next to Pellington in the director's Los Angeles home and watching endless VHS audition tapes from New York of kids vying to play the (anti-)hero of the "Jeremy" video. It became pretty clear early into the nearly 200 auditions that the kids they were watching were "typecasty," as if they'd read Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder's lyrics about an outcast high schooler -- based on the true story of Dallas 16-year-old Jeremy Delle, who killed himself in front of his classmates in 1991 after years of torment -- and decided they were had the perfect look and attitude for the part.


"In a cliché movie about junior high it would have been the picked-on kid, the outcast who looked funny or strange, and I could tell Mark was dissatisfied with that idea," says Richmond of the parade of odd-looking and over-acting kids they watched, whose performances felt a little too on-the-nose. "[Pellington] couldn't articulate what he was looking for, but he knew he wasn't looking for that."


A few hours in, Wilson's audition came up and Pellington and Richmond looked at each other and said, “That's him!" It could only have been Wilson, Richmond recalls -- ironic, considering the novice 7th grade actor was a mess the day he auditioned.


"He was sick on his tape, and he didn’t play it like, 'Oh, I’m all angsty,'" remembers Pellington, then 30 and best known for his pioneering quick-cut work on the MTV show Buzz and iconic videos like U2's "One." "He was sitting there and I was looking at [his audition tape], and he was kind of dazed and numb and f--ked up. I found out later that he was sick. But he was so expressive, in a non-histrionic way."


"Untold Story of Video Star Trevor Wilson's Fascinating Life & Tragic Death" (Billboard)