Per Variety, Tommy Kirk was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1941. Growing up in Los Angeles, Kirk caught the acting bug and became famous for his role as Travis Coates in “Old Yeller.” From there, Kirk became a Disney prodigy playing Wilby in “The Shaggy Dog,” and Biff Hawk in “The Absent Minded Professor.”
Despite his being a leading man for Disney, Kirk claimed that the studio ended up cutting ties with Kirk when they found out he was gay, per The Hollywood Reporter. During filming for “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones,” a then-21-year-old Kirk began seeing a 15-year-old boy. When Disney found out about the relationship, they cut ties with Kirk.
In an interview with Kevin Minton in 1993 for FilmFax, Kirk revealed when he was 17 or 18 years old, he finally admitted to himself that he was gay. “I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career,” he said, via The Hollywood Reporter. “Disney was a family film studio and I was supposed to be their young leading man. After they found out I was involved with someone, that was the end of Disney.”