Chucking It Away
01/14/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Even at age 6, Alex Vincent wasn't afraid of Chucky, the murderous doll in the 1988 horror film Child's Play. "It was very fake," recalls Vincent, who played Andy Barclay, the boy who gets the freckle-faced terror toy as a birthday gift. "I saw all the wires and the nine guys underneath controlling him. I wasn't scared."
Fame, however, did prove a little daunting. In high school, "I was called Chucky every day by some kids," Vincent says. "It got on my nerves." After the movie and its sequel became cult hits, "there were Web sites dedicated to me," he says. " 'Alex Vincent forever!' It's a little freaky! "So instead of pursuing an acting career after starring in Child's Play 2 in 1990, Vincent left L.A. and returned to his Maywood, N.J., home with his family. "I just wanted to be a normal kid," he says. "I wanted to play baseball, hang out with my friends and not have my life disrupted by auditions."
He got his wish. These days Vincent, 20, is charting his own course, working as a waiter at Steak & Ale in Bergen County, N.J., and performing with his rock band, Perception, at local nightclubs. "I sing and play keyboard," he says. "I'm a big fan of classic rock." Last year he used his acting earnings, which were kept in a trust, to put-a $30,000 down payment on a two-story, three-bedroom house overlooking Greenwood Lake in West Milford, N.J., that he now shares with friends Greg Norton and Joey Innella, both 25. "He's very serious," says Jennifer Ballestas, 19, Vincent's girlfriend of four years. "He knows what he wants. He sets his mind to something, and he does it."
It was that same determination that got Vincent into acting. At age 5, "Alex saw a neighbor's daughter on TV doing commercials, so he wanted to do a commercial," says his mother, Denise LaForgia, 49, a social worker and high school therapist who is divorced from Alex's dad, Lou LoScialpo, 56, a private detective. Within eight months of his first audition, Vincent, who used his first and middle names professionally, had landed a Hardee's commercial and a small role on the CBS soap As The World Turns. Child's Play soon followed. "The violent nature of the film was disturbing," says Denise. "But his character didn't harm anyone. There were new things to learn every day. It was fun."
Catherine Hicks, 50, who played Vincent's mom in the Child's Play movies, recalls him turning their scenes into games of pretend: "Alex liked the attention. It was playing hide-and-go-seek." After filming-wrapped, Hicks and husband Kevin Yagher, the special-effects artist who created the Chucky doll, kept in touch with Vincent, who visited their L.A. home in July 2000. "I was happy to see he didn't take the path of so many other child actors," says Yagher, 39. "He probably didn't experience enough of Hollywood to really mess him up."
Life offscreen, however, has brought its own traumas. Last year Vincent's half brother Derek, 27, committed suicide. The tow-truck driver had shown no signs of depression, says Vincent, who has a half sister, Lara, 33, and a sister, Ashley, 17. "It was like out of nowhere. I've had a hard time coping with it," says Vincent. Derek's death drew him closer to his family—and squashed any thoughts he had about reviving his acting career, says Ballestas. "He can't be bothered doing things he doesn't enjoy, like auditioning."
Instead, Vincent spends his free time writing poetry and puttering around the 9-mi. lake in his 17-ft. motorboat. Though he no longer watches horror films ("Now it's all teen slasher comedies," he says. "Not my scene"), he does take pleasure in his scary movie past. "It's really fun when I meet someone new and they get to know me, and a few months down the line I ask, 'Hey, you remember that movie Child's Play?' And they say, 'Yeah, why?' And I say, That little boy was me.' They get a kick out of that."
Sona Charaipotra in West Milford