She was a rising star in the 80s, but her life took a dark turn in the decades that followed. Amanda Peterson, is famous for her iconic role in the romantic comedy Can’t Buy Me Love. She dies at the age of 43 in a tragic accident that shocks her fans and loved ones. But what really happened to the actress who once had a promising career ahead of her?
In this video, we’ll explore the troubled life of Amanda Peterson, from her history of legal troubles to her struggles with addiction and abuse. We’ll also reveal the heartbreaking cause of death that ended her life much too soon.
FactsVerse Presents: Amanda Peterson’s Cause of Death at 43 Was a Tragic Accident
Darkness Tainted Her Early Years
Phyllis Amanda Peterson is born in 1971 in Greeley, Colorado, the youngest of three children of James Peterson. He’s an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and his wife Sylvia. She had a sister, Anne Marie, and a brother, James Jr.
Peterson began acting as a child and adopted the shortened form of her name, “Amanda Peterson” in a professional capacity. She makes her stage debut at age seven as Gretl in The Sound of Music. She receives a small role in the musical film Annie as a dancing extra at age 11.
Peterson becomes a rising star in the 80s, he receives spots on popular TV shows, Father Murphy and Silver Spoons. She also appeared in more than 50 TV commercials. In 1985, she starred alongside River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke in the fantasy film Explorers. The following year, she wins a Young Artist Award for her role in the miniseries A Year in the Life.
Amanda Peterson’s Dark Secret
But behind her success and fame, Peterson was hiding a dark secret. In 2015, they reveal that she is a victim of sexual assault at age 15 by an old man. It’s still case unclosed at the time. The trauma of the assault affected her deeply and led her to seek solace in drugs and alcohol. She also struggled with an eating disorder and body image issues.
Peterson’s breakthrough role comes in 1987 when she plays Cindy Mancini. The popular girl who falls for the nerdy boy, by Patrick Dempsey, in the teen comedy Can’t Buy Me Love. The film was a huge hit and made Peterson and Dempsey teen idols. They appeared on the covers of magazines like Tiger Beat and Teen Beat and were adored by millions of fans.
But fame also came with a price for Peterson. She felt pressured to maintain her image and to cope with the demands of Hollywood. Not surprisingly, she started to rebel against her parents and managers and experiment with more drugs. She also had trouble finding roles that matched her talent and potential. Like other former teen stars have experienced, Peterson starting to feel typecast. She wants to pursue more serious and challenging projects.
From Bad To Worse
After Can’t Buy Me Love, Peterson’s career started to decline. She co-starred in a low-budget post-apocalyptic film The Lawless Land, produced by Roger Corman, and a college drama Listen to Me, opposite Roy Scheider. But unfortunately, neither film made an impact at the box office or with critics. Peterson also reprised her role as Sunny Sisk in the TV series version of A Year in the Life, but the show was canceled after one season.
Peterson became disillusioned with Hollywood and decided to return to her hometown of Greeley, where she graduated from high school. She enrolled in Middlebury College in Vermont, where she studied anthropology. She also attended the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University.
Despite leaving Hollywood behind, Peterson’s personal problems continued to haunt her. She developed a drug addiction that led to several arrests. We’ll touch on those arrests in a bit more detail in just a moment, so be sure to stay tuned.
Aside from her legal issues, Peterson also had two failed marriages which resulted in two children. On top of her substance abuse issues, Peterson’s problems were only exacerbated by the fact that she also suffered from bipolar disorder, depression, and insomnia. She tried desperately to get sober and rebuild her life, but she sadly never quite managed to overcome her demons.
In a 1987 video interview, she hinted at her future retirement.”I have two different lives,” she said. “I have my normal life and I have my career life”. Peterson’s last acting credit was in 1994, when she starred in the family drama Windrunner. She then retired from showbiz for good at the age of 23.
Peterson’s Four Arrests
As we’ve already discussed, Amanda Peterson struggled immensely after falling out of the spotlight. Her life spiraled out of control as she faced multiple arrests and jail time. In 2012, she was busted for driving under the influence and having drug paraphernalia in her car. The Weld County Sheriff’s Office in Greeley, Colorado, booked her into custody.
Two years earlier, in 2010, she got into a physical altercation with another woman in Fort Collins, Colorado. A police report stated that Peterson was drunk and slurring her words. She had been at a bar with her young daughter and her boyfriend, who said she was on medication for bipolar disorder and ADD and should not have been drinking.
Peterson also had run-ins with the law in 2000, 2003, and 2005. Her mugshots revealed a shocking transformation from the fresh-faced actress she once was. In one photo, she had a bruised eye.
She spent nearly three months behind bars in 2005, as she was arrested in September and released in December, according to Sheriff’s Office records obtained by PEOPLE.
Peterson’s Utterly Tragic Death
Peterson was reported missing on July 3, 2015, and was later found dead at her home at the age of 43, just five days before her 44th birthday. Peterson’s body was discovered by police on July 5 after her family ordered a wellness check when she failed to show up for a scheduled family dinner. Initially, the Greenley Police department failed to comment on the specific details of the case due to an investigation that was then-ongoing, but they did mention that Peterson’s apartment door had been unlocked and that there were no visible signs of foul play to report.
Shortly after her death, Peterson’s mother told Entertainment Tonight that her daughter had a history of drug abuse when she was younger, but she was under the impression that she was clean and sober when she died. She doubled down on this sentiment by stating rather emphatically that her death was “not in any way a drug thing”.
An autopsy was scheduled by the Weld County coroner on July 6 in hopes of determining the cause of Peterson’s death. The results of that autopsy and toxicology screening were later released on September 2, 2015. Despite her mother’s belief that she had been drug-free, Peterson’s cause of death was revealed to be an accidental overdose of morphine and other drugs.
According to the coroner’s report, Peterson had been prescribed Gabapentin after a hysterectomy and had obtained morphine illegally from a friend shortly before her overdose. The report concluded that Peterson likely experienced a “morphine effect” which resulted in respiratory failure that ultimately led to her death.
She Had Big Plans
Around the time of her death, it was reported that in the weeks leading up to her passing, Peterson had been talking about making a career comeback. She evidently was also in the process of writing a memoir that was meant to be a candid ‘tell-all’ of everything that she had experienced as a former teen star.
Photographer Ryan Hatsock, a dear of Peterson’s whose 2012 photos of her appeared in international news outlets following her death, was quoted in The Denver Post as saying that he had been encouraging her to set up a website and get a blog going.
Another one of her hometown friends, Tawyna Bowie, stated that she really wanted to do a photo shoot, start blogging, and even start a fan page in hopes of recapturing some of her former glory. Bowie went on to add that Peterson had high hopes of giving back to the community by opening up an acting studio so that she could help young kids grow self-esteem.
Peterson’s death sent shockwaves throughout the Hollywood community and her fans. Many of her former colleagues and friends expressed their grief and condolences on social media.
Patrick Dempsey tweeted: “In my memory, she will always be vibrant and young. Gone too soon.”
Sarah Michelle Gellar wrote: “When I was younger, I used to want to be #AmandaPeterson. I once even asked my mom for a white leather fringe jacket.”
Scott Foley posted: “RIP Amanda Peterson. Can’t Buy Me Love was a huge part of my youth. So sad.”
Lance Bass said: “I remember cutting school in 9th grade to go see #CantBuyMeLove on opening day. So sad to hear the news of #AmandaPeterson’s passing.”
Peterson’s legacy is that of a talented and beautiful actress who once had a bright future ahead of her, but whose life was cut short by a tragic accident. She will always be remembered for her iconic role as Cindy Mancini in Can’t Buy Me Love, a film that touched the hearts of millions of people. She will likewise always be missed by her fans and loved ones who could see beyond her troubles and see her inner ‘sparkle’.
We’re just about out of time for this video, but before you go, we’d love to hear from you. Did you know that Amanda Peterson was arrested 4 times between 2000 and 2012 and that she became addicted to drugs after retiring from acting? Let us know in the comments. And as always, thanks for watching!