Pearl Jam at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards; Trevor Wilson, center; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagicOn August 1, 1992, Pearl Jam‘s “Jeremy” video debuted on MTV. The instantly iconic clip followed a troubled teenager, played by a 12-year-old named Trevor Wilson, who kills himself in front of his classmates.
The video turned out to be Wilson’s only starring role — he left acting and remained out of the spotlight up to his tragic, accidental death in July 2016. In honor of the video’s 25th anniversary, and in remembrance of Wilson, Billboard caught up with director Mark Pellington.
When Pellington was looking to cast “Jeremy,” he found that many of the kids auditioning for the role felt too much like the “cliche” junior high outcast. Then he found Wilson’s tape, which Trevor filmed while he was sick.
“He was sick on his tape, and he didn’t play it like, ‘Oh, I’m all angsty,'” Pellington remembers. “He was sitting there and I was looking at [his audition tape], and he was kind of dazed and numb and f***** up. I found out later that he was sick. But he was so expressive, in a non-histrionic way.”
The “Jeremy” video immediately became huge, and Wilson started to shrink from the spotlight just as quickly. His last public appearance came during the 1993 MTV VMAs, during which “Jeremy” won Video of the Year.
With acting behind him, Wilson pursued his interest in international politics, leading to an internship in Egypt with the United Nations. He bounced around a few other jobs before setting his sights on a U.N. post in Myanmar. Leading up to that job, Wilson took a trip to Puerto Rico in July 2016. He drowned while swimming at the Ocean Park beach.
You can read the entire piece, which also features an interview with Trevor’s mom, Diane, on Billboard.com.
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