The Untold Truth Of Wes Bentley

Wes Bentley became a star virtually overnight, thanks to his performance in Academy Award-favorite "American Beauty" as Ricky Fitts, the slightly creepy camcorder obsessive with a rather pretentious outlook on wind-blown plastic bags ("Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it.")

But as Bentley famously struggled to cope with the pressures of fame, over the following decade, he hit a downward, drug-addicted spiral that not only ruined both his career and marriage, it very nearly cost him his life.

Thankfully, Bentley managed to clean up his act, and in the 2010s has enjoyed something of a comeback, becoming a regular of Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story" universe, gracing box office hits "The Hunger Games," "Interstellar," and "Mission: Impossible — Fallout," and landing the recurring role of unscrupulous lawyer Jamie Dutton in the biggest western on TV, "Yellowstone." With the actor now gracing our screens practically every week, there seems to be a newfound interest in all things Bentley. So just who is he and what is his untold truth?

Wes Bentley is glad his stint in The Hunger Games was brief

Wes Bentley's profile, and indeed bank balance, would no doubt have benefited considerably had his "Hunger Games" character, chief game-maker Seneca Crane, returned for its three money-spinning sequels. However, the actor insists he's not bitter he only got to share the screen with Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen for the 2012 installment.

Bentley, whose villain (spoiler alert) was given a death sentence by President Snow after sparing Katniss and Peeta's lives, told Business Insider four years later that the fleeting nature of the role was part of its appeal. "I live to experience different things. Part of what I love about acting is to live the lives of others. Growing up I could never decide what I wanted to be because I wanted to be so many things."

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly at the time of the film's release, Bentley revealed that he had something in common with Crane, though thankfully not a willingness to coordinate death-sentencing games. "Seneca's young and he became very successful young and wildly successful for a minute. And I've had that experience in my life and it all went to my head as it does for so many of us. I lost touch with reality and I thought everything I did would turn to gold."

He once turned down Christopher Nolan

Wes Bentley's career revival continued in 2013 when he was cast as Endurance crew member Doyle in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic "Interstellar." And the film's director obviously isn't one to hold a grudge, as Bentley had turned him down several years previously.

Yes, in the full grip of his drug addiction, Bentley passed on the opportunity to work with the multiple Academy Award nominee, as well as several other esteemed filmmakers, including Ang Lee, Tony Scott, and Tim Burton. The star explained to The Hollywood Reporter in 2013, "I put up such a wall that I didn't even go and meet with these great directors whom I respected and admired so much."

But several years after snubbing one of Hollywood's most bankable names, Bentley was determined to make amends. "I've been given this second chance, and I'm going to do everything I can with it. And with Chris Nolan giving me an opportunity, I'm working with people that I can really learn from." The star hasn't yet been given a second chance by the other major names he rejected, but he did get to learn from another legendary filmmaker, Terrence Malick, in "Knight of Cups." 

He developed a heroin addiction in a matter of days

In the late 2000s, Wes Bentley became more renowned for his substance abuse problems than his once-thriving acting career. His marriage to Jennifer Quanz fell apart because of the drug addiction he'd managed to keep secret from her. And even an arrest for possession couldn't stop him from using. Incredibly, as he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013, his addiction to his drug of choice, heroin, "happened in a matter of days."

In another interview with The Irish Independent, the star explained how he was so quickly influenced by the darker side of showbiz. "I came to Hollywood and I got caught up in all the glitz and glamor of the nightlife. All the stuff I had no idea about in Arkansas. In a way, it made me a little more prone to it. It was like looking behind the curtain. And I went behind the curtain and hung out."

Luckily, Bentley managed to get clean thanks to a 12-step program, and he's now determined to become the poster boy for Tinseltown's reformed. He told HuffPost, "There's people out there who are still addicted, and they might not think you can get past it either. But I want to show them that you can. I mean, I have to work on it every day still, as you know, but I just want people out there to know ... that it is beatable."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Wes Bentley could have been Spider-Man

The most-talked about superhero movie scene of 2021 could have looked a little different if Wes Bentley had been a bit less choosy about his career in its early days. Yes, in an alternative universe, the Arkansas native would have represented the Sam Raimi-era of the webbed crusader, not Tobey Maguire, alongside Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland in the fan-friendly reunion.

Hot on the heels of his breakout role as oddball Ricky Fitts, Bentley was in talks to take the leading role in "Spider-Man" in 2002. However, as the actor explained to The Express Tribune a decade later, he felt the movie was slightly beneath his talents. "I didn't want to go there because I believed in what I did in 'American Beauty' was special and I had higher expectations for myself to do something like that again."

Of course, Bentley now rues turning down the offer, and the many other more commercial offers that came his way during the same period. "I regret not doing them and they're painful to watch sometimes. But they're a reminder of my struggle. If I were to get those opportunities again, I'd know exactly how to handle them. I think age and experience has made me more decisive and clear-headed."

He left Juilliard after just a year

After graduating from Sylvan Hills High School in the Arkansas city of Sherwood, Wes Bentley landed a place at the prestigious Julliard School's Drama Division in New York. But in 1997, just a year into the course, the aspiring actor left to chase the bright lights of Hollywood on his own.

You could say that things worked out just fine for the star — who within a year had bagged a role in the adaptation of Toni Morrison's "Beloved" and then 12 months later was cast in one of the era's defining films, "American Beauty." So it's little surprise that Bentley has few regrets about his early departure, telling /Film in 2016, "The first year at Juilliard is, I think, the best. And partly why left, I only went one year. Partly why I felt okay leaving is that the most important elements, I believe, happen in the first year."

Bentley might not have lasted the distance at one of America's most esteemed drama schools. But he still learned plenty of valuable lessons that have helped him in his career. "They really take away your ego, to start to want to learn about what it really is to be an actor, and then they start to add elements back in there for you. Then you learn a lot about yourself in moments and how to be a blank canvas. So, you need all that when you're in all the elements that are filmmaking."

The actor isn't afraid to do a nude scene

Wes Bentley certainly isn't afraid to show off a bit of flesh. He first bared his derrière in the film that launched him to fame, "American Beauty," and has done so again in the likes of "The White River Kid," "Soul Survivors," and "After the Fall." In 2012, the actor also went shirtless during a black-and-white photo shoot for Flaunt magazine. 

The actor spent much of his second stint in the "Hotel" installment of Ryan Murphy's anthology, "American Horror Story," in a state of undress, too. When asked about the amount of skin he puts on display by The Guardian in 2016, Bentley replied, "I'm not shy — I have no problem with nudity or other people's nudity. It's just a body."

He also had no problem with being objectified during his stint as the villainous Detective John Lowe, adding, "It happened a lot this season. I think that must have been a joke with the writers. They're a funny group like that. No, it was fine — it's all part of it. It's flattering too!"

Wes Bentley and Heath Ledger were like brothers

"The biggest loss of my life." If you needed any proof as to just how close Wes Bentley was to the late Heath Ledger, then just watch his emotional interview with Larry King. In 2015, the "American Beauty" star opened up to the talk show legend about their friendship, revealing that they had both "good times and bad times," and that the Australian was "like a brother."

Bentley had previously spoken about Ledger in the wake of his shocking death from an accidental overdose in 2008. In a statement published by People, the actor wrote, "At one point we were as close as two people could get without being blood. That closeness came from sharing a similar, life-altering experience in life at a young age where very few could relate and those who could often were pre-occupied with competition. It would have been isolating, not to mention boring, without him."

That "similar, life-altering experience" refers to the time they spent together shooting the war drama "The Four Feathers" at the turn of the millennium. The pair played close friends in the critical and commercial flop, an adaptation of A.E.W. Mason's novel of the same name set during the British Army's late 19th century Nile Expedition in Sudan.

He knows all about ranch life

It seems as though it was a prerequisite for all "Yellowstone" cast members to have had their own ranch before landing their parts on the Paramount Network western. Leading man Kevin Costner, who stars as John Dutton, owns 160 acres of land just outside the mountain town of Aspen, Colorado. Cole Hauser, who portrays ranch hand Rip Wheeler, has a horse ranch in California's Agoura Hills that he's put on the market for $4.25 million. And Wes Bentley, who plays Dutton's lawyer son Jamie, also has experience in the ranching life.

Yes, speaking to one of his hometown's newspapers, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, in 2019, the actor revealed that he'd owned a ranch back in the mid-'00s that housed both his own horses and provided space for others, too. Sadly, and much to his disappointment, he hasn't been able to show off his horseback skills as much as his other colleagues on the hit show.

In 2018, the Ryan Murphy regular told Playboy that he was super excited to have bagged a role in "Yellowstone," having regularly watched westerns with his father while growing up. "I thought I'd be on horses, in cowboy gear. But, nope. Instead, I'm the lawyer." Bentley admitted he tried to convince creator Taylor Sheridan to give him more physical scenes, but didn't have much luck. "I was like, 'Look, Taylor! Look how good I am on a horse! Can I get another scene on a horse?'"

Wes Bentley was left traumatized by American Horror Story

Wes Bentley had appeared in several scarefests before signing up to do "American Horror Story," including "P2," "The Tomb," and "Underworld: Awakening," without getting the real-life heebie-jeebies. But in a 2018 chat with Playboy, the actor revealed that there was something about Ryan Murphy's anthology that left him literally screaming in the night.

The former Juilliard student claimed he'd previously had no trouble shutting off from his more intense roles whenever he got home to his wife and children. But while playing the murderous Detective John Lowe on the 2014 "AHS" season named "Hotel," the star ended up regularly having nightmares.

Bentley recalled one particularly bad dream, which was interrupted by his young son crawling into his bed. "I picked him up, and I started screaming. And he started screaming. I picked him up and put him on the ground before I realized it was my boy, and he was terrified." Luckily, the actor didn't end up traumatizing Bentley, Jr. "My wife and I started laughing because of the absurd noises we were making, screaming about my child supposedly attacking us — he then started laughing. Thankfully."

The actor's first wife was accused of controlling his career

Wes Bentley has freely admitted the reason he failed to capitalize on the success of "American Beauty" was a crippling drug addiction. But back in the mid-2000s, before his substance abuse issues had become public knowledge, the actor's first wife was accused of being the real career saboteur.

Various gossip sites claimed Jennifer Quanz stopped Bentley from taking on any roles that featured sex scenes, inspired his decision to turn down the part that eventually went to Jake Gyllenhaal in "Brokeback Mountain," and insisted on traveling with her husband at all times following reports of a frisson with co-star Kate Hudson during the filming of "The Four Feathers."

However, in an interview with Marie Claire around the time such tittle-tattle first surfaced, Bentley was keen to point out he was the master of his own destiny. "There's been an ugly rumor online about my wife, and how she is running my career and controlling it. She does her own thing and she respects my opinions. I think it's because I never chose a role that was really a love story, just because one never crossed my path that I really dug. It just hurt and I got scared it was going to hurt the people around me." Unbeknownst to the press, Bentley and Quanz had already separated by this point: Their divorce officially went through in 2009, with the former later marrying producer Jacqui Swedberg a year later.

He was an angst-ridden teen

Considering the number of intense characters Wes Bentley has played over the years, it's probably not too surprising to learn that his teenage years were spent in a permanent state of angst. In an interview with the New York Post to promote his breakthrough role in "American Beauty" at the turn of the century, the young star admitted, "I was angry and very defensive. I felt like that through high school because a lot of kids would pick on me."

Luckily, Bentley found a way, and an unlikely one at that, to curb this side of his personality: the Chinese form of philosophy known as Tao. Recalling the moment he discovered Benjamin Hoff's "The Tao of Pooh" while studying at New York's prestigious Juilliard, the actor said, "In a matter of 30 minutes, I was different. I could take the critiques; I mean, they had bad things to say and I had a grin on my face. And I've been a Taoist now for three years."

Bentley may have had the last laugh when it came to his high school tormentors. But the Arkansas native insisted that he had no plans to rub his success in their faces. "I'd love to believe in revenge, but I don't ... I would love to go back to when I was 12 or 13 years old and these bratty kids, you know, are making fun of me, and I would just smile and shrug and keep smiling."

Wes Bentley seriously thought he was going to die

While promoting his showbiz comeback in the 2010 off-Broadway production of "Venus in Fur," Wes Bentley made a startling admission: His drug addiction became so severe that at one point he genuinely thought he was just hours from death.

This rock-bottom moment occurred in 2009, just a year after the "Ghost Rider" star had been charged with attempting to pass a fake $100 bill and possession of heroin. A court-ordered 12-step program failed to get him clean, and while staying in Los Angeles, a destitute Bentley found himself in a hotel room with only a copious amount of alcohol for company. He recalled to The New York Times, "I thought to myself, 'I'm going to die in this hotel room with this bottle of Scotch.' It was after that I told a friend for the first time: 'I'm a drug addict, and an alcoholic, and I need help. I need help or I'm going to die.'"

Thankfully, Bentley's second attempt at the 12-step program proved to be more successful. In another revealing chat with the New York Post in 2015, the actor revealed that he was still very much sober. "I already had a wild, creative mind and I thought I could accelerate that with drugs. Then I learned many of the artists I admire did not do drugs ... The biggest problem is the shame. It keeps you down. But you can turn it around."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

His favorite role is not what you'd expect

Wes Bentley has appeared in the five-time Academy Award winner "American Beauty," the Christopher Nolan epic "Interstellar," and the young adult phenomenon "The Hunger Games." But ask the actor about the most cherished film he's appeared in and you'll get a bit of a curveball answer: "Weirdsville," the 2007 black comedy described by director Allan Moyle as Canada's answer to "Trainspotting."

Speaking to Den of Geek in 2014, Bentley was impressed when the interviewer brought up the little-known picture. "Oh, you know it? Cool. Yeah, when I started out, what I liked about acting was improv comedy. I liked making people laugh, which is weird for people to hear about me." The Arkansas native added that he thought the film deserved to have attained cult classic status. "It's silly. It spins and spins and spins deeper out of control, and I like that kind of film."

The year previously, Bentley had told The Hollywood Reporter that he wanted to embrace his lighter side on-screen more often. "I would definitely love to do a straight-up comedy, like a Judd Apatow movie [or] the whole Seth Rogen group. I love the Coen brothers' sense of humor ... For so many years, I took everything so seriously. Life could have been a lot more fun."

Wes Bentley gets on well with his on-screen nemesis

Jamie and Beth Dutton have perhaps one of the most toxic sibling relationships currently on TV. Their rivalry in "Yellowstone" appears to stem from the time the former took the latter to have an abortion when she fell pregnant as a teen, and the fact he failed to tell her the procedure would leave her infertile. The pair's hatred only intensified when Jamie went against their father's wishes during his bid to become attorney general. And things got so bad in Season 2 that Beth issued a death threat against her brother.

Luckily, the two stars who play the warring characters have a much healthier connection off-camera. In fact, Wes Bentley can't stop gushing about his co-star Kelly Reilly. In 2021, he told Newsweek, "The only way we can do those scenes is by fully trusting each other and knowing that we're good people and we're not out to hurt each other. We don't have any of these feelings. So it's quite the opposite ... We are very careful to take care of each other. Emotionally and physically."

Bentley also sang Reilly's praises in a chat with Cinema Blend, describing her as "one of the sweetest people." He added, "She has to go so far to get to Beth. She does an amazing job. It's great to watch her. She's very intimidating as Beth, though. I get worked up for these scenes, and then she delivers."