Rich or Rehab: Whatever Happened to the 'Free Willy' Kid?

In the summer of 1993, moviegoers were introduced to the touching story of a boy and his love for a killer whale. I speak, naturally, of the family favorite that launched a million trips to Sea World (not to mention a million double-entendres), “Free Willy.”

The young boy who starred opposite the lovable whale — actual name: Keiko — was an actor named Jason James Richter, who made his film debut in “Willy” at the age of 13. So whatever happened to that kid?

The Oregon native became a recognizable face after starring in this box office hit, which was perhaps best known for that climactic scene where Willy leaps out of the water and over a triumphant Richter.  (Well, that and Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There?,”  which served as the movie’s theme song.)

Not surprisingly, one “Willy” led to another, and Richter found himself starring in both 1995’s “Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home” and 1997’s “Free Willy 3: The Rescue.” In between, he scored roles in less than illustrious fare like “Cops and Robbersons” and “The Neverending Story III.” (I’d say that that third movie finally put an end to the “Neverending Story,” but it appears that a remake of the original is in the works. They really weren’t kidding — it never ends!)

In the late ’90s, Richter took his own leap, off of the acting circuit. He spent the early part of this decade focused on music, first playing in a group called Blueroot, which has since broken up, and more recently in the almost-not-quite-metal band Fermata, which still has an active MySpace page but appears to have called it quits in 2007.

These days, Richter seems to be back in the acting game. Earlier this year, he appeared in an episode of “Bones.” Granted, he played the role of Clown #2, but hey, it’s something. He also worked as an assistant director on an action movie called “Tekken,” which is currently in post-production. So perhaps the “Free Willy” boy will find a second act of some sort in Hollywood. Until then, enjoy watching him rock out in this video for the Fermata song “Frustrated.” (Richter is the guy rocking out in the shadows on the bass.)

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Article Posted 9 years Ago

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