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Frankie Muniz's Tragic True Life Story

In the 2000s, there were few better family sitcoms than "Malcolm in the Middle," headlined by child actor Frankie Muniz. Though it never reached the Nielsen highs of juggernauts like "Frasier" and "Everybody Hates Chris," it was a consistent ratings hit and has since only gotten more popular as a favorite of millennials for its quirky, oddball humor and fast-paced laughs. Thanks to his bratty on-screen persona and quick wit, Muniz was the face of family TV for a whole generation.

Muniz, however, is no ordinary child star. Unlike so many others, the young Muniz rarely got into any trouble on or off the set, and he was never caught up in the temptations of drugs and alcohol. But unlike so many other major 2000s kid actors who grew into adult fame, Muniz walked away from acting — and from Hollywood — the height of his fame. He's continued to give interviews, though, and has made sporadic appearances on reality TV, where he's talked frankly about the ups and downs of his life and career. From illness to divorce and his problems with Hollywood, this is the tragic true-life story of Frankie Muniz.

His rise to fame broke up his family

The rigors of stardom can have a devastating impact on even the most mature actors. At a young age, Frankie Muniz discovered he wasn't immune to this phenomenon. As a child, Muniz's parents supported his burgeoning acting career, and over the years he's been open about the fact that he owes his entire life in Hollywood to his parents. Sadly, however, that career came at a terrible cost.

When he was just a child, before his breakout role on "Malcolm in the Middle," Muniz's mother, Denise, moved with her young son out to Los Angeles to help him pursue his acting dream. The rest of the family, though, was left behind. "Me and my mom went, but my sister stayed with my dad in North Carolina," he said in an emotional interview on an episode of "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!" (per The Sun). With the family split in two, separated by thousands of miles, the fallout was swift. "My mom and dad ended up getting a divorce during that time," Muniz said.

To make matters worse, Muniz said, the financial rewards of his career didn't benefit the rest of his family the way they could have. "I don't know how much positive it brought to the family," he acknowledged. "I wasn't a part of the family since I was 11, because that's when I left."

He's broken more bones than he can count

When "Malcolm in the Middle" came to an end, Frankie Muniz turned his attention away from Hollywood. Living out many a boy's dream, he pursued a surprising career as a racecar driver. While this new life got him out of the limelight, it wasn't without its own challenges, as the high-risk profession led to a number of physical ailments.

"I'm using muscles that I've never used before," he told People Magazine. "The backs of my knees are sore! Every day there are new pains, but I can't stop." Addicted to the thrill, Muniz seemed to find serious injuries around every turn. "Since 2006, I've broken 38 bones," he said. Those physical traumas eventually began to take their toll on him. "As a kid I did everything. I played ice hockey, soccer, basketball, soccer. But a year ago I went roller skating, and I was literally the dad holding onto the rail. I realized I have to take care of myself."

In the same interview, Muniz opened up about what might be his worst crash while behind the wheel, crashing his car into a wall after rolling end over end several times. "I broke my back, ankle, four ribs and my hand," he said. "My thumb was dangling by the skin."

Unexpected health challenges nearly derailed his career

Despite the long odds, Muniz became quite successful on the racing circuit, but between acting, racing, and later playing in an indie rock band, Muniz's health began to decline. "From the time I was 8 years old, I never stopped working," he said in 2017 in an interview with People. "In 20 years, I had maybe 30 vacation days. I realized I was exhausted." 

Things came to a head in 2012 when the actor suffered the first of several transient ischemic attacks, known more commonly as "mini-strokes." According to the Mayo Clinic, these attacks — unlike more serious strokes — don't leave any permanent damage, but are caused by "a brief blockage of blood flow to the brain." 

"First, I lose my peripheral vision," Muniz said. "And I can see people but I can't recognize them. I can see words but I can't tell what they say. Then I start going numb. It's a gross feeling. But I know now when it's going to come. I usually go lay down and wait [for it to be over]." As Muniz tells it, he's suffered about 16 such attacks in his lifetime.

Frankie Muniz has suffered from serious imposter syndrome

Physical problems aren't the only ones that Frankie Muniz has faced throughout his life and career — mental health issues have also plagued him. In 2024, before his appearance on "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!," he spoke about his struggles with imposter syndrome. Psychology Today describes impostor syndrome as a condition where sufferers "believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held." Sometimes this manifests as feelings of incompetence or a lack of intelligence, not to mention a crippling fear that those around them will discover that they aren't who they once believed.

"I never felt like I fully fit in the Hollywood world, even though I was in the world," Muniz told News Australia. He'd received a number of accolades during his early life, but he said he didn't feel they were deserved, looking around at his much more accomplished colleagues and confused by how he ended up among them. "I kind of stayed in my own little world, my own little bubble," he said. Eventually, Muniz relocated to Arizona, and once he was away from Tinseltown he began to have the ordinary experiences that a life away from L.A. could provide: "I started enjoying looking at trees and birds in the sky. Going to the grocery store was a fun thing."

He's fought a private battle with memory loss

From broken bones to imposter syndrome, Frankie Muniz is proof that even overwhelming success in Hollywood isn't as simple as many might believe. But in addition to facing those problems, he's had another medical issue that's caused trouble for him: a serious case of memory loss, and it's something he's battled for years without an official diagnosis. As he's gotten older, he says, he's found it difficult to remember parts of his time on "Malcolm in the Middle" as well as other parts of his early life. 

"I only know what it's like to be me," the actor told People Magazine in 2019. "Or have my brain. So I'm only reminded of how bad my memory is when people I see, they come to me and go, 'Oh, you remember when we did this? Remember we went on this trip to this country?'" 

Some of this might be attributed to those events being in his early childhood, but according to Muniz, it goes beyond ordinary faded memories. "I have no recollection of [those experiences], but in my head, it's not like I feel bad or sad about it," he said. Of course, his troubles with memory could be from a series of head injuries he suffered over the years. "I've had nine concussions," he said on the podcast "Wild Ride! with Steve-O." "A lot of my memories now, I can't distinguish if it was a dream or if it was reality."

Misinformation about his private life has plagued him for decades

Like any star in Hollywood, Frankie Muniz has been the target of celebrity columnists for years. The rise of social media, however, has added an extra layer of discomfort for the actor, as fans and non-fans alike have spun stories about his private life that haven't always agreed with reality. This spread of misinformation has plagued him — a discomforting aspect of fame that Muniz pushed back against for years. And part of that misinformation relates to his stories of memory loss.

During his appearance on "Dancing with the Stars," the show played up that memory loss and edited his comments on the issue to make it seem like he had a form of amnesia. "Now if you search my name, it basically says I don't remember anything," Muniz said on the "Pardon My Take" podcast. He expressed frustration with the overblown media attention over the issue. "People come up to me all the time," he said, "and they're like, 'Do you know who you are? Your name is Frankie Muniz.'"

Frankie Muniz and his girlfriend dealt with a scary domestic incident

Issues with his memory aren't the only aspects of his life that have frustrated Frankie Muniz when it comes to attention in the media. In 2011, the "Agent Cody Banks" star, then 25, had police called over a domestic disturbance involving himself and his girlfriend Elycia Turnbow, and when the dust had settled it was reported that Muniz had surrendered a firearm to police. In a story published by Radar Online, a 911 call from Muniz himself alleged his girlfriend had been drinking and the couple had been fighting as a result.

Turnbow claimed that Muniz had been holding a gun to his own head, but she nevertheless insisted that he wasn't suicidal. According to statements, it was an unfortunate escalation of a domestic squabble. Despite that no charges were filed by either party, the tabloids ran wild with the story. In the years since, Muniz has expressed further frustration with how the incident was portrayed in the press. "The fact that the story ran the way it did was just insane to me," Muniz told Fox News. "[It was] just a fake overblown story."

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Tensions on the set caused him to walk off Malcolm in the Middle

The set of a hit TV show is often a happy place, but it's not without its issues. Actors, producers, and directors are all subject to the same workplace stresses as the rest of us, and even as a child actor in the 2000s, Frankie Muniz had to deal with problems on the set of "Malcolm in the Middle." As Muniz tells it, there was even an infamous period during the production of the series when tensions got so high, the actor walked off the set. He said that as a result, he's not in two episodes of the series.

"Everyone was so afraid to stand up when certain people were controlling or rude or disrespectful," he said on "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" (via News Australia). "I was so mortified by seeing people afraid to stand up for themselves." Determined to protect himself and his fellow "Malcolm in the Middle" cast members, Muniz — as the star of the show — took matters into his own hands. "I didn't care if they told me I was never going back, because it was worth it to me."

He's broken off engagements with multiple women

Plenty of Hollywood A-listers have had high-profile romances that ended in heartbreak, and Frankie Muniz is no different. Rich and famous by the time he was a teenager, the TV star dated fellow actors like Elliot Page, Hillary Duff, and Amanda Bynes. Then, at the tender age of 20 he got engaged to then-girlfriend Jamie Grady. The year was 2005, and while his proposal was accepted, the pair never tied the knot. Years later, Muniz announced that they'd broken off the engagement, but he insisted they were still together ... sort of.

"It's a very awkward situation," he told People in 2008. "But we're best, best, best friends. ... And if there was anyone in the world that I wanted to be with, it'd be her." Still, he admitted that things weren't going smoothly, telling the outlet that with all the travel involved in his blossoming racing career, finding time together had become difficult. By 2009, they were no longer together at all, and Muniz was getting serious with fashion entrepreneur Elycia Turnbow. The duo dated for several years, but after a brief engagement, they too called it quits. In 2020, he finally walked down the aisle with his now-wife, model Paige Price.

He found himself in hot water on social media

Like many, Frankie Muniz's experience on social media hasn't always been positive. In 2010, the actor found himself in a little bit of online hot water when the likes of Vanity Fair labeled him "Twitter's preeminent bully" following a spate of eyebrow-raising tweets and fan interactions. It all started when a random user tore into him over what he felt was Muniz's lack of acting talent.

The insult didn't go over his head, and Muniz flippantly — and now infamously — retorted with a below-the-belt jab of his own: "Yeah, but being retired with $40,000,000.00 at 19 has not been awful. Good luck moving out of your moms house before youre 35." The kerfuffle made waves in the press, but that wasn't the end of his online brouhaha.

Not long after, a minor feud was kicked off by fellow former child actor Shia LeBeouf. According to Dlisted, the two actors had a rivalry that stretched back years, and LeBeouf reignited it after mocking Muniz during an interview with Entertainment Tonight. This prompted a strange rebuke from the "Malcolm in the Middle" star, who tweeted back, "Dear Shia Labeouf. It's getting creepy the fact that you can't stop talking about me. It's been 12 years now. I don't know you. Thanks."

The end of Malcolm in the Middle led to an existential crisis for the actor

When first cast as the star of "Malcolm in the Middle," Frankie Muniz was barely 15 years old, and within months he was a superstar. For seven seasons he played the precocious, super-smart Malcolm, continuing his run well into his early 20s. While he'd moved to the big screen during his time on TV — appearing in "My Dog Skip" and "Agent Cody Banks" — Muniz was left at a crossroads when the show came to a close. 

"When I was on 'Malcolm,' I was just so excited to be working on a show," he told Fox News in 2022. "But also in that same sense, when the show ended, I kind of left the business for a little bit." Tired of the day-to-day grind of Hollywood, Muniz took used his fame and financial success to explore other areas of interest. "I started doing other things," he said. "I was racing cars. I joined a band. I was touring all over." Unsure of how he wanted to live the rest of his life while still young, he had to figure out for himself exactly what made him happy. "I opened some businesses and I got to experience so many amazing things in my life, which now at this point has made me able to reflect and look back and be so appreciative of the experience," he said.

Frankie Muniz was heartbroken about the death of a mentor

Around the same time he was finding success on "Malcolm in the Middle," Frankie Muniz began fielding offers for movies, and despite a heavy workload, he stepped up to the big screen. One of his earliest cinematic efforts was the family film "My Dog Skip," based on a memoir by Willy Morris and directed by Jay Russell, co-starring Kevin Bacon, Diane Lane, and Luke Wilson. A modest hit at the box office, the film helped make Muniz a big name just as "Malcolm in the Middle" was getting started, and author Morris took it upon himself to be a mentor to the young rising star.

In a Reddit AMA, Muniz expressed his sadness about Morris, who died just a day after a heartfelt meeting with him. "About 2 weeks before it came out, he took me to dinner in New York City," Muniz wrote. "He gave me this list of all the things he wanted me to do in my life – like at 16 I want you to be in school, and go to college, and all these things. And he died the next day. That movie and that experience really affected me and definitely hit closest to home."

Frankie Muniz lost almost everything when his cat flooded his home

Famous actors must deal with their share of tragedies like anyone else, and Frankie Muniz faced a double dose of devastation in 2018. He revealed the news in mid-November of that year on X, formerly known as Twitter, when he informed his followers of two separate calamities that befell him within mere days of each other. The first was a death in the family, and while he was away dealing with the fallout, things at home went wrong thanks to an unlikely culprit.

"I arrived home from my uncle's funeral to find 4 of my 5 story brownstone home under 3 feet of water," he said. "Every wall, piece of artwork, personal photos, furniture... All because my cat accidentally turned on a sink a few days ago while we were gone." In a second tweet, Muniz explained just how hard the twin tragedies affected him: "I've cried more yesterday and today then my whole life combined. Forgive me for venting.. I just need some support." Both of Muniz's cats survived the flood.