Lillo Brancato was just 16 when he made his acting debut in Robert De Niro’s, “A Bronx Tale.” The film did better than anyone expected, establishing him as an up and coming star, and changing his life. They called him the next De Niro, and Brancato continued to show promise as an actor; he went on to star in “Crimson Tide” and “Renaissance Man,” and had a memorable arc on the hit HBO show “The Sopranos.” As a child in Hollywood’s spotlight, things began to spiral out of control for Brancato. He went from smoking marijuana to using cocaine, and became addicted to opiates in his 20’s. His life was beginning to fall apart. Brancato says he continued to spiral out of control until the night of December 10, 2005, when an off-duty police officer witnessed him and another man committing a burglary. The officer shot at him and his accomplice, and the accomplice shot back, murdering the officer. Brancato was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the burglary, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to use drugs. It wasn’t until after Lillo overdosed in his cell on November 12, 2006 that a cousin and a friend came to visit him; he remembers the look of disappointment in their eyes when they saw him. It was that day that Brancato made a choice to change his life by getting sober. Now, 12 years later, amid an epidemic killing hundreds of people a day, Lillo Brancato has decided to dedicate his time to helping people in the community get sober. Besides helping people get into drug and alcohol treatment centers, Brancato also spreads the message that recovery is possible by working with Amatus Health as a National Outreach Coordinator. Brancato uses social media as a tool to share his story of recovery from addiction. He believes that God got him through all the obstacles he’s faced in life to do this work and intends to continue helping people until the day he dies.
Brancato works with Amatus Health because they are a leader in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Brancato knows first-hand how addiction can rob you of your future and land you in jail. According to Brancato, he had everything he could ever want, and then some, but still struggled with his addiction. When Brancato was completing his sentence, he used that time to learn about the law, get more involved in doing things he needed to prevail, and earned his GED. When you are in the cycle of addiction, education or a job may seem unimportant. Some people suffer job loss or drop out of school due to their addiction, which is why at every Amatus Health Facility, patients are offered the best vocational and academic support there is, including life skills coaches and mock job interviews. Whether a patient needs to finish schooling or find a new job, Amatus Health will help. Brancato also stars in a new documentary about his life, “Wasted Talent,” that shows the reality of what drug addiction will do to a person. Brancato said this is the right time for this documentary. Hundreds of people are dying each day because of addiction. Brancato wants people to know they aren’t invincible, he wants people to see that if his life was “perfect” and he could become addicted to opiates, so can they. Brancato knows everyone’s path to addiction is different, and so is their path to recovery. Which is why when you enter treatment at an Amatus facility, you are given a completely individualized plan. Brancato hopes that after seeing this documentary people will decide, “maybe I shouldn’t try this.” The documentary, “Wasted Talent,” directed by former police officer Steven Stanulis, shows viewers a real look at what addiction can rob you of- your life, and your freedom. The documentary does more than examine Brancato’s rise to fame and descent into addiction. It looks at the raw truth of his addiction, how it brought him from fame and big screens to a prison cell. Now sober, Brancato takes full responsibility for his past actions and for his role in the death of the off-duty police officer, Daniel Enchautegui, who was murdered during a burglary. Brancato has said that he has tried to learn more about Enchautegui. He feels bad that his addiction is a part of what killed Enchautegui, and he doesn’t expect the film to change anyone’s mind about him or his past. He doesn’t even expect that this film will make him a Hollywood actor again. All that Brancato is hoping, is that his film will shine light on the realities of addiction.