Most known for his controversial role in Larry Clark’s 1995 film, “Kids” and skate punk attitude. In 2000, Justin shocked the world, along with his friends, when he committed suicide in a Las Vegas suite.
He was born Justin Charles Pierce in London on March 21, 1975 but was raised in Manhatten, New York.
He attended P.S. 7 in the Bronx for Elementary School and J.H.S. 141 in the Riverdale section of the Bronx for Junior High School.
When he was 15 years old, his parents separated. After the separation he lived with his mom in Northeastern Pa. and went to High School for a few years at Delaware Valley H.S. in Milford Pa. At some point, Justin returned back to New York.
He began acting out. dropped out of school and moved out, often staying with fellow skaters. He was later arrested for the possession of marijuana and heroin substances. which were found under his pants in a police road search. The results in the court hearing were found inconclusive. Justin went back to live with his parents at the age of 19.
While skateboarding in Washington Square Park in New York, Justin was discovered by controversial photographer Larry Clark. Larry was working on his future directing debut about a look into the lives of New York street kids. The screenplay was written by 18 year old Harmony Korine in 1993, based/inspired off of skateboarder Quim Cardona, who was supposed to play Telly (which went to Leo Fitzpatrick) in the film.
Justin was cast as Casper–the loud mouthed friend of Telly.
While filming, Justin got in a fight with a club bouncer and broke his wrist. Since his character in the film does not have injuries, they had to wait until filming was over to get him a cast. In the pool scene, you see Justin holding his wrist above his head — he did this to help decrease the pain in his wrist.
“Kids” was released in 1995 and went on to achieve big time success. Justin won an Independent Spirit Award for best breakthrough performance for his portrayal of Casper.
In 1997 he soon moved from New York to Los Angeles and worked on his acting career.
He appeared in 1997’s, “A Brothers Kiss” as a young Lex.
Also in 1997, he appeared in “First Time Felon” as Eddie.
Justin continued getting film roles in some independent films, including a small role in “Malcolm in the Middle”.
In 1999, Justin married stylist Gina Rizzo in Las Vegas.
It was first stated a year after they married that they had a daughter together. If there is any truth to this, I’m not sure. They lived in Los Angeles together with their two dogs.
In 2000, Justin appeared with Ice Cube in “Next Friday”. They traveled to Las Vegas for promotion of the film. Justin stayed in a Poshe suite at the Bellagio Hotel. On July 10, Justin failed to show up to a local mall to sign autographs. He was found hanging that day in his hotel room by hotel security. He was 25 years old.
He left two suicide notes which have not been released to the public.
A Catholic service was held for Justin the following day at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan’s Little Italy.
Larry Clark said that his wake was the worst day of his life. Also saying, “It was a full-on Catholic wake with the open casket and all these skateboarders in their father’s suits.”
Actress Marianne Hagan, who worked with Justin in the film “Pigeon Holed”, said, “He was 21 going on 80, he had this expressive face that you don’t have if you’ve had a happy-go-lucky life, and he wore it like a badge of honor.”
Seth Rossenfield said, “Michael Rapaport said I had to meet this great actor. And then I started to hear all these things about what trouble Justin was. But I met him and he told me he wasn’t like that at all. He was always prepared and a natural actor. Justin hadn’t had the easiest life. He had a lot of wisdom for such a young age. He had an old soul, but underneath his tough street exterior was a really sweet kid.”
David Perez, “You could sense that [Pierce] wasn’t happy.”
Maybe we’ll never know the exact reasons why Justin Pierce took his own life at the young age of 25, but one thing is certain: He will live on in the amazing film work he left behind.