River Phoenix, actor, musician, free spirit, Hollywood rebel. A leading member of the film world’s new generation anti establishment stars. He died at just 23 years old, on 31st October 1993.
His death was compared to that of James Dean, who died in 1955, at just 24. The similarities between their deaths are impossible to miss. Both lived life in the fast lane. Both shared the same dark, brooding intensity. Both died young, cut down in the prime of life. Both were loners. Both had cult followings before and after death. With River he was a hippy, animal lover, vegatarian. He was Hollywoods latest rebel..
There really has been nobody else like River Phoenix before or since. He’s in a league of his own! Lets have a look back at this truly unique man.. A life, though short, was lived fully to the max!
River Phoenix was born 23rd August 1970, in Madras, Oregon. His nickname was Rio, which is Spanish for river.He had three sisters, Rainbow, Liberty and Summer. A brother Leaf (later known as Joaquin. The successful actor in his own right). The children, along with their parents, Arlyn and John, spent much of their childhood in Venezuela. Where Arlyn and John were missionaries for the Children of God cult. When asked about his childhood, River said, “My upbringing was unconventional. It was filled with love, laughter and peace. It shaped me into the free spirit I am today.”
River’s career began in his childhood, taking on roles on tv and tv films, his break through role came in 1985, in the film Explorers. He played a nerdy science genius, who makes a spaceship from bits and bobs from around the house! Working with a very young Ethan Hawke. But it was Phoenix’s next film which shot him to fame on the next level…
Stand By Me, the film based on Stephen King’s short story, The Body. The film was a huge hit and remains just as popular to this day, a classic. River plays Chris Chambers, who along with his friends Gordy (Wil Wheaton) Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) go in search of a dead body, learning a few facts about life along the way. It also launched the career of a young Kiefer Sutherland. River’s following film was Mosquito Coast. He played Charlie, the son of Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. Ford is consumed by his rejection of American life and moves his family to a remote Caribbean island. But the dream of a new start soon begins to crumble in the dangerous jungle surroundings.
In 1988 River starred in Jimmy Reardon, and Running On Empty, which earned him an Oscer nomination for Best Supporting Actor, for his portrayal of Danny, the son of two underground terrorists on the run. Danny, a talented pianist, which blossoms, as do his feelings for his first love and he realises he is to leave his family if he is to get what he really wants in life.
Next was Little Nikita with the legend who is Sidney Poitier. In the film Phoenix discovers that his parents are Soviet spies, wanted by the Russians and wanted by the FBI. He teams up with Poitier, the only man he can trust in search for the truth. Next came Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Harrison Ford classic. River plays a young Indiana, opening the film with a sensational action scene atop of a speeding train! River then teams up with Keanu Reeves in Gus Van Sant’s cult classic, My Own Private Idaho. River’s other films included, Dogfight, Dark Blood, This Thing Called Love and, Sneakers, a spy thriller, where he played a computer genius, who could hack into any data, he played the youngest member of a criminal gang, which included Robert Redford.
River was due to start work on An Interview with a Vampire, sadly he died two weeks before filming began.
But what do we know about River away from Hollywood, who portrayed him as a clean cut, perfect image, as a man who loves nature, cares about the world. His party life style was kept quiet. That was not his image.Though River did indeed truly care about the world, he often spoke about how human’s are destructing Mother Earth. “The rainforests are being cut down so much faster than people realise, its a human tragedy of immense proportions, it will effect you and me as that’s where most of the world’s energy comes from” River was a nature loving man.
River dated actress Martha Plimpton, and actress Samantha Mathis, who he met filming A Thing Called Love. Phoenix also loved music! He played guitar and had his own band, Aleka’s Attic. Rainbow Phoenix, his sister, was the bands singer! It’s certainly true, River was a man who cared about the world and its contents but there was another side to River, the man of nature..
River Phoenix loved to party! He was apart of a group of kids in Hollywood who always had to be at the hippest place and do the hippest things! Phoenix sooned developed a drug habit, which soon became regular use, though people tried to help him, he denied any drug use, protecting his clean cut image, by saying, “Oh no. You have the wrong person. I dont even eat meat.”
31st October 1993, Halloween. The night River Phoenix died. Phoenix went with friends, including his brother, Joaquin, to The Viper Room. The Hollywood night Club owned by actor Johnny Depp, on Sunset Boulevard. Phoenix accidentally over dosed on drugs. He was brought out of the night club totally out of it. The paramedics came and he was rushed to Cedar-Senai Hospital, 50 minutes later he was dead.
There’s an old saying in Hollywood,
‘Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse’ Tragically River succeeded.
River Phoenix what a talent he was, imagine if he had lived and what his acting would be like now? The films he would of made. River was so much more than a heart throb, or the latest flash in the pan. He would of been in Hollywood, with his place there in the world of acting firmly secured.
23rd August 1970 – 31st October 1993.