Dylan and Cole Sprouse, the Disney Brothers Who Walked Away From Fame to Discover Their Own Path
Their stunts were the hottest thing to watch in the 2000s, and they became very successful at an age when most kids lead a normal life. We’re talking about the Sprouse twins, who you may remember from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. After years as stars and teenage millionaires, they decided to disappear, so they could live, at least for a while, as strangers in a big city.
Despite what their Disney background would make you think, the Sprouse twins were born in Italy, more precisely, in a hospital in Arezzo, Tuscany. Their parents taught English at a local school, but when they were 4 months old, they returned to Long Beach, California, their native place.
Their grandmother, Jonine Stand Wright, a drama teacher and actress, saw that the brothers could be successful in the acting world. She knew that local labor laws only allowed children to record a specific amount of time per day, so productions were always looking for twins to play the same role and make shootings more efficient.
They first appeared in a diaper commercial when they were 6 months old. From age 8, the two played the same character in Grace Under Fire, Patrick, for a few years, from ’93 to ’98. A year later came their first big movie, Big Daddy, in which they appeared alongside Adam Sandler.
After that, there was a period when they noticed that they were no longer being called for roles. It wasn’t until 2001 that Cole started appearing in episodes of Friends as Ross’ son Ben.
After a few gigs, resounding success came into their lives with The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, a Disney sitcom that premiered in 2005 with both brothers as protagonists. In terms of audience and success, we could say that this production and its sequel, The Suite Life On Deck, were the ones that truly launched them to fame in that decade.
In parallel, the brothers launched a clothing brand and other products and were, for example, the face of Nintendo’s campaign. Their popularity was such that, in 2007, they became the richest living children on the planet and, in 2010, Disney’s highest-paid actors. Back then, they made about 40 thousand USD per episode. Curiously, instead of seizing the moment, in 2011, after postponing it for a year, the twins went off to college.
Dylan once said, “The one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to study acting. We had already done it, and we didn’t think we needed any more training.” They both studied at New York University but chose a different career path: Dylan studied Video Game Design, and Cole Archaeology.
For a few years, they moved away from the spotlight, became part of college fraternities, and worked in unusual places around the city. In 2015, they both graduated. Cole even shared some fun photos of the moment on his Twitter account.
“Dylan and I made the conscious decision to distance ourselves from the industry quite a bit,” Cole said in an interview a few years ago after graduating. He further emphasized that the world considered their decisions “a failure.” “We had considered that to be a successful move. But because it wasn’t acting or entertainment, which is very often considered a pinnacle profession where you can’t do something better than acting, singing, or anything like that, it was seen as something negative.”
“We really wanted to step out and fade away from the industry,” Cole concluded. His brother, meanwhile, complemented his idea with a similar one. “There’s this grim realization that there really is no truly escaping the industry,” Dylan said, “If you want to be an actor or actress out of high school or college, just know what you’re getting in for. It’s a job.”
In that interview, both confirmed that the idea of returning to acting had never been strange to them. “We always had the expectation of coming back, but we desperately wanted an alternative perspective on it,” were Cole’s words at the time, when they were just getting back into auditions and the like, though without leaving their particular interests aside.
Cole did not take long to return to the industry. Since 2017, he has been part of Riverdale’s cast, a teen series about to premiere its seventh season. Far from the childish and colorful image of his early years as an actor, he now looks more like a “bad boy,” both in his role and out of it, in his photographs and other publications.
Dylan has worked in the fashion industry but in smaller projects. “Cole is very happy at the moment, while I’m happier doing low-budget films,” the actor and video game designer commented, emphasizing that, in addition, the characters he likes best are “marginal and complicated” but with a “redeeming quality.”
Today, at the age of 30, they are both doing what they love. They are in love and have stable relationships. They both lead a life with a much broader perspective. Cole, in addition to acting, is a professional photographer. He even has a secondary account with over 5 million followers where he posts images of people taking a picture.
In addition to playing small roles and playing and designing video games, Dylan is an entrepreneur. He owns All-Wise Meadery, a company that produces different types of beverages.
If you could take a few years to put your life on hold and study, what career would you choose and with what goal in mind?