See What the Little Boy From "Flight of the Navigator" Looks Like Now
Joey Cramer, who starred in the 1986 Disney fantasy film, is 48 now.
In 1986, audiences were transported by a live-action Disney sci-fi/fantasy movie about a 12-year-old boy who ends up in his own future after being abducted by an alien spaceship. Joey Cramer was the young star of Flight of the Navigator, but despite leading one of the most beloved and unusual family films of the decade, he didn't stick around in Hollywood for very long after it came out. Today, Cramer is 48 and just recently started acting on screen again. To find out more about the Flight of the Navigator star now and why he walked away from making movies back in the '80s, read on.
Cramer found success as an actor very early on.
Cramer hails from Vancouver, Canada and made his screen debut in the 1984 movie Runaway. Two years later, when he was 13, he racked up three big credits: The Clan of the Cave Bear with Daryl Hannah, the Disney TV movie I-Man with Scott Bakula, and his biggest yet—Flight of the Navigator, in which he played the protagonist, David Freeman.
The plot follows David as wakes up after a fall finding that eight years have passed but that he hasn't grown any older. He learns that he had been abducted by an alien ship piloted by a friendly, information-seeking robot Max, who now needs his help to recover all the intelligence it lost when one UFO crashed. As all of the alien biological data the ship had been collecting was stored in David's brain, he's now "the navigator" and must outrun NASA agents to assist Max and get back to his own time.
In a Reddit AMA earlier this year, Cramer raved about his time working on the film, saying that he had fun and also felt very protected as a child actor.
"I have no complaints," he said of the experience. "It was my first 'starring' role, so not much to compare it too, but I felt I was treated well especially thanks to [director] Randal Kleiser and [co-star] Jonathan Sanger."
"Honestly, I enjoyed every minute!" Cramer said in response to another question. "I felt so grateful to be doing something I loved at such a young age!"
But he quit the business shortly after.
After Flight of the Navigator, Cramer appeared in two episodes of Murder, She Wrote and the 1987 TV movie, Stone Fox. That was his last onscreen role until an uncredited appearance in another film directed by Kleiser, 1996's It's My Party.
He took a break in the late '80s and moved back home to Canada because he wanted some time to just be a kid. Unfortunately, that transition was difficult for him.
"It was hard later in my teens when I tried to be a 'normal' kid and was treated differently," Cramer said in his AMA. "I ended up not 'fitting in' which I now [sic] we can all feel at times."
He dealt with some personal struggles and legal issues.
The 2000s and 2010s saw Cramer facing some legal troubles. He was arrested for a handful of crimes over that period, including careless storage of a gun, possession of a controlled substance, uttering threats, and passing bad checks. He faced his longest jail sentence—two years minus time served—in 2016 after he pleaded guilty to being involved in a bank robbery. This event shocked the industry and fans and was reported in various entertainment news publications. Cramer was also homeless for some of this time.
Cramer's probation for the bank robbery included an order to check into a rehab facility to tackle his substance use disorder.
A new documentary explores Cramer's journey.
Released just last year, Life After the Navigator not only reflects on the legacy of the movie and why it's such a touchstone for so many people who grew up in the '80s, it also tracks the ups and downs of Cramer's life. He's interviewed in the film, speaking candidly about his drug use, arrests, and subsequent rehabilitation.
"Telling your story can be a scary thing or it can be challenging…Cause it's like, oh, what are people going to respond to? What are they going to maybe judge or think less of? There are all these little things that can come up when we put ourselves out there for the world," Cramer said in an interview with HeyUGuys. "But once I saw the almost finished product, it was amazing."
"I hope that anyone who loved the movie and then saw my troubles, that it's a way for them to see kind of my side of the story in an authentic way and that I wasn't setting out to hurt anyone and my appreciation for the love of the film after all this time," he added. "And just to try to share with anyone who may be going through some sort of traumas or struggles or life stuff that there's always a way out of the darkness."
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He's also started acting again.
It seems as though Cramer's found a new passion for performing. He has four projects listed for 2021 alone: two shorts, Pirette and End of Discussion, and two feature films, The Twelve Step Strangler and Fragile Seeds.
"I'm working on it!" he told a Reddit user who asked about the revival of his film career. "Slow n steady, but I truly feel it's where I'll thrive…. making movies."
These days, he's also very engaged with the Flight of the Navigator fandom, attending conventions and sending fans messages through Cameo.
He's even low-key lobbying for a role in the recently announced remake, which is set to be directed by Bryce Dallas Howard and feature a female protagonist.
"Heyyy Navigators!!!" he wrote on Instagram. "I know there may be mixed emotions about this remake but I do love @brycedhoward @ninemusesentertainment so I think if anyone can do it She can!! Let's see if we can get some buzz around yours truly returning as the 'dad' in this adventure!! What do y'all think??"