From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Three months ago Corey Haim had a big idea. The actor and '80s teen idol wanted to reteam with his lifelong friend Corey Feldman in a sequel to their 1988 hit License to Drive. Working hard on his fledgling sobriety after a wildly self-destructive 20-year battle with drug addiction, a newly energized Haim gave Feldman his pitch. "I said, 'Send me something over-surely you have written something up,'" recalls Feldman, who costarred in half a dozen movies with his "brother" Haim. "He said, 'No, I don't write.' He was like a kid. I said, 'If you want to prove to me you're taking things seriously, show me a 30-page [script] treatment. You have 10 days.' Sure enough, he actually did the legwork. For the first time in his life, he actually sat down, wrote the concept and brought it to me. It was going to be License to Fly. He showed me he had grown up."

Sadly, Haim's hoped-for comeback was not to be. On March 10 the troubled 38-year-old actor-a Gen-X icon who appeared in the 1987 cult classic The Lost Boys and whose drug-fueled downward spiral was captured in his 2007-08 A&E reality series with Feldman, The Two Coreys-collapsed at the Los Angeles apartment where he had been living with his mother, Judy Haim, and was pronounced dead shortly after. Although he had been running a fever and complained of not feeling well the day before, "he seemed very coherent and normal, both to his mother and his doctor," says Haim's agent Mark Heaslip.

Police say his death was a possible drug overdose, and four pill bottles in Haim's name were found on the scene (see box, page 60). Judy was reportedly told by investigators that her son had pulmonary congestion, an enlarged heart and water in the lungs, but coroners declined to comment as toxicology results are still pending.

The death of the once-dynamic actor, whose picture graced countless school lockers and bedroom walls in his heyday, was met with a mix of grim resignation and stunned disbelief by his closest friends-many of whom had tried unsuccessfully over the years to help him kick his well-publicized addictions. Despite long-term money woes that left him struggling to make ends meet-he didn't own a car, and his family auctioned many of his belongings to pay for his funeral-in recent months, "he was the happiest he'd been in a long time," says his pal, former child actor Scott Schwartz. Adds Angela Cullins, who filmed the indie movie American Sunset with him last spring: "He battled a lot of demons. But he was also in a really good place. He wanted to get back to the Corey Haim he used to be."

Much of his recent focus, say those who knew him well, was sparked after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Extraordinarily close with his mom, 61, who was divorced from his dad, Bernie, Haim "wanted to do everything in his power to help her beat it," says Pamela Miller, a talent agent who knew him. "He went to every doctor appointment with her and did everything to be a best friend to her." Working with an addiction specialist, "he was still on a little medication, but not like the old days," says Heaslip. "They'd pretty much weaned him off [everything]."

Feldman says his best friend was "still quietly battling drug addiction" but that he'd made progress: "Since his mother was stricken, there was never a time where I saw him [high] to the capacity that I had prior." Still, Haim was "the greatest manipulator the world has ever known, as good addicts are," says Feldman, himself a recovering heroin addict who has been clean for more than 10 years. Feldman-whose fraught friendship with Haim largely defined both men (see box, page 59)-points the finger at doctors who continued to give the actor access to meds: "To the day he died, he found somebody that was willing to give him large quantities of drugs."

Now his devastated mother is grieving the death of her son and constant companion. "The guy was 38 years old and living with his mom-and never even thought about not living with his mom," says Feldman, also 38. "They shared a bond like no other I had ever seen. He supported her [financially] his whole life." Just before Judy was set to start chemo, "he wanted to turn the apartment into a spa for her," recalls Feldman. "He was like, 'What kind of food do you think I should get?' It was so sweet because you were watching this 10-year-old kid try to become a man."

And yet Haim's relationship with his mom [who declined to be interviewed] was "codependent," says Feldman, noting that she would encourage Feldman to keep activated charcoal-used to absorb substances in the stomach-on hand "to stick down his throat" if necessary. Adds former child star Quinn Smith, who knew Haim for 30 years and witnessed one of his overdoses firsthand: "His mom would see him go to the hospital OD'ing and say, 'It's not that bad. He'll get over it.'"

He and his mom had been a team since Haim made his film debut in 1984's Firstborn with Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. A string of roles that showcased his natural charm and baby-faced good looks soon followed. "This kid was the most beautiful free spirit," says his Lost Boys costar Brooke McCarter. "He was good at everything he did."

But it was on the Lost Boys set that Haim said he first tried marijuana. As it is for many child stars, it was all too much, too soon, says Smith, who partied with Haim when both were teens: "When you are 15 years old and there's a Ferrari you just bought and you can't even drive, and all the most beautiful girls in the world-a lot of them older than him-were hitting on him, it throws you for a loop."

As his career began to wane, so too did his already shaky confidence. "He was not a happy person a lot of the time. He was very insecure," says Feldman, who is now shooting a third Lost Boys movie. Before filming, "he would sit in the trailer throwing up because he was about to walk onstage and was afraid to be on-camera."

In 2005, Feldman says, Haim's drug addiction hit rock bottom: "He was taking anywhere from 30 to 50 pills a day. He was popping Valiums and Somas [painkillers and muscle relaxants] like they were M&Ms. He was over 300 lbs. where once he was one of the most good-looking people in the world."

After several more recoveries and relapses-along with his bombshell revelation on the second season of The Two Coreys that he had been raped as a teen by a 42-year-old man he declined to identify-Haim was on the cusp of a new beginning, many of his close friends say. He had recently wrapped two indie films and worked fan conventions to earn extra money. "The highlight of his life was making fans happy," says Smith, who recalls Haim once signing 500 photos in a hotel lobby after fans recognized him. Quick to fall in love and engaged many times over the years, "he was always talking about having kids, getting married," says Smith.

Now his grieving family is saying farewell, with the actor's funeral taking place in Toronto and an upcoming L.A. memorial in the works. The outpouring of affection for a star who deeply craved it throughout much of his life has been bittersweet, say friends. "He loved to talk about the old days, when things were good," says his childhood friend McCarter. "If Corey had only known how many people really did care, it would have made a difference."

  • Contributors:
  • With Charlotte Triggs/Los Angeles,
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