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River Phoenix Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (53) | Personal Quotes (53)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 23 August 1970Madras, Oregon, USA
Date of Death 31 October 1993Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (drug-induced heart failure)
Birth NameRiver Jude Bottom
Nicknames Rio
Riv
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

River Phoenix was born River Jude Bottom in Madras, Oregon. His mother, Arlyn (Dunetz), a Bronx-born secretary, and his father, John Bottom, a carpenter, met in California in 1968. They worked as itinerant fruit pickers, and later joined the Children of God religious group (John was originally Catholic, while Arlyn was born Jewish). By the time River was two, they were living in South America, where John was the sect's Archbishop of Venezuela. In 1977, they moved to Los Angeles, and changed their last name to Phoenix. His parents encouraged all of their children to get into movies and, by age ten, River was acting professionally on TV. His film debut was in Explorers (1985), followed rapidly by box-office successes with Stand by Me (1986) and The Mosquito Coast (1986), and as young Indiana in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). His role as Danny Pope in Running on Empty (1988) earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. His best role was probably Mike, the hustler in My Own Private Idaho (1991).

A dedicated animal-rights activist and environmentalist, River was a strict vegetarian and a member of PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). River was a talented musician as well as an actor, and he played guitar, sang, and wrote songs for his band, Aleka's Attic, which also included his sister Rain Phoenix, while living in Gainsville, Florida. Although the band never released its own album, their song "Across the Way" can be found on PeTA's "Tame Yourself" album, used to fight animal abuse. River was in the middle of filming Dark Blood (2012), playing the character Boy when he died. The film couldn't be finished due to too many unfilmed crucial scenes. His mother was later sued.

River died of acute multiple drug intoxication involving lethal levels of cocaine and morphine at age 23 outside the Viper Room, Johnny Depp's Los Angeles club.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>, Christine, CMGiesBrady

Trade Mark (1)

Portraying innate emotional vulnerability

Trivia (53)

The song "Transcending" on the Red Hot Chili Peppers album "One Hot Minute" is dedicated to River Phoenix.
Sings a song on John Frusciante's album "Smile from the Streets You Hold."
Ranked #86 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
The 1994 R.E.M. album "Monster" is dedicated to River in the liner notes--he was friends with lead singer Michael Stipe.
Born at 12.10 pm-PDT
He was supposed to be the interviewer in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994) but died. Christian Slater took his place, and donated his entire paycheck from the movie to all of River's favorite charities.
He was almost definitely set to star as Izzy Singer in Safe Passage (1994). Sean Astin got the part after River's death.
Was a vegan.
Natalie Merchant wrote a song, "River," which is in his memory. In addition, her song "Carnival" was inspired by him.
Was set to star in Total Eclipse (1995), the story of a young gay poet. After River died the part was given to Leonardo DiCaprio.
His date to Johnny Depp's club the evening he died was actress Samantha Mathis.
Listed as one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1986" in John Willis' Screen World, Vol. 38.
Ashes scattered at family's Florida Ranch.
The famous Brazilian singer and songwriter Milton Nascimento wrote a song called "River Phoenix (Carta a Um Jovem Ator)" ("Letter to a Young Actor" in English) in 1988. Milton was quite impressed with River's performances in The Mosquito Coast (1986) and Stand by Me (1986), and he decided to write a song in reverence of his talent. When he got to know about the song, he came to Brazil and spent some days in Milton Nascimento's country home. After that first contact, they became good friends. In the track "Curi Curi" (Tsaqu Waiãpi) from Nascimento's album "Txai" that was released in 1990, River reads a speech written by him protesting the destruction of the Amazon and betrayal of its people.
Born in a log cabin in Oregon.
He disliked flying and traveled everywhere by car or by train.
Nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in Sidney Lumet's Running on Empty (1988), Phoenix lost out to Kevin Kline for his performance in A Fish Called Wanda (1988). At the time of the Academy Awards ceremony in March, 1989, Kline and Phoenix were filming the movie I Love You to Death (1990). Sitting in the audience, Phoenix applauded enthusiastically when his co-star's name was announced as the winner.
Phoenix, who'd been playing the guitar since childhood, had his own band with his sister, Rain Phoenix, called Aleka's Attic.
My Own Private Idaho (1991) director (and close friend of River) Gus Van Sant published a novel in 1997 titled "Pink," which is a loosely disguised fantasy homage to his late friend. Van Sant's movie Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993) includes a dedication of to River during the opening credits.
River recorded an album the summer before his death titled 'Never Odd or Even' (the title is a palindrome), which was released. A friend of his named Sasa Raphael (who worked with River on the album and played bass in River's band Aleka's Attic) almost succeeded in making the album available for free download on the Internet in the summer of 2000,on the anniversary of what would've been River's 30th birthday, but was later sued by the estate of River Phoenix for copyright reasons.
His parents named him River after the river of life in Hermann Hesse's classic spiritual novel "Siddhartha"; and Jude, his middle name, after The Beatles' song "Hey, Jude."
Ranked #69 on The 100 Greatest Movie Stars (2003) on Channel 4 (UK).
The story is apocryphal that River's last words were supposedly (to the reporter trying to help him outside the Viper Room) were "No paparazzi, I want anonymity", although the quote has become something of an urban legend. In fact, according to witnesses (which included a nearby paparazzo), River stumbled out of the nightclub and fell hard, face-first, onto the sidewalk (experts believed he likely died at that moment) before spasming violently against the pavement for eight minutes, never having uttered a word.

And while that photographer chose not to capture that moment on film, the day before Phoenix's cremation in Florida, a reporter broke into the funeral home, rearranged the body, and took a picture. This picture was later to be sold to the National Enquirer for $5,000.
Was an involved environmentalist and bought up several hundred acres of rain forest in Costa Rica and Brazil, not to develop them, but to just keep them so they would not be cut down.
Rufus Wainwright's song "Matinee Idol" is about him.
Died on the same day as Federico Fellini.
He was a very talented writer, songwriter, and sketch artist. Often wrote songs while he was driving to work.
Is one of only three actors to have played the son of and the younger version of the same actor, by playing Harrison Ford's son and playing young Indiana Jones. The other is Bruno Kirby, who played Richard S. Castellano's son on The Super (1972), and the young Clemenza in The Godfather: Part II (1974). Logan Lerman played one of Mel Gibson's sons in The Patriot (2000) and the younger Nick Marshall in What Women Want (2000).
Two of his nephews have been posthumously named for him. His sister Liberty Phoenix gave birth to a son named Rio Everest Phoenix. Rio is Spanish for River. His other sister Summer Phoenix gave birth to a son, Indiana Affleck. River played Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
His death is listed as #16 in the top 101 events in E! Television's 101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment.
In total thus far, he has 5 nephews and one niece. Jonas Winter (February 7, 1993) to younger sister Rain Phoenix, Rio Everest Phoenix-Asch, (12 June 1997), Indigo Orion Phoenix-Asch (9 November 1999), Scarlette Jasmine Phoenix-Asch (July 2, 2001) to younger sister Liberty Phoenix, Indiana August Affleck (May 31st, 2004) and Atticus Affleck (November 2007) to youngest sister Summer Phoenix.
The band FenixTX was originally called River Fenix, but due to conflicts with the rights to his name, they were forced to change their name.
Harrison Ford personally recommended him for the part of the young Indy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) after working with him on The Mosquito Coast (1986). Ford stated that of all the young actors who were working at the time, River was the one who looked the most like himself when he was that age.
Ironically, despite his reputation for healthy living, Phoenix was a chain smoker. Peter Bogdanovich recalled, "He'd say about meat, 'That's not good for you, man, that'll kill you.' And he'd be smoking a cigarette, and he'd look at it and say, 'I know, man, I know.'"
Anonymous Australian alternative rock band TISM (an acronym of This Is Serious Mum) released a song in 1995 called "(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" which dealt with celebrity deaths, specifically with the death of Phoenix and his drug habit which caused it. The main refrain of the song, which reportedly angered members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was "I'm on the drug that killed River Phoenix".
He and his brother Joaquin Phoenix are the first brothers to be nominated for acting Academy Awards.
Mentioned by Norwegian Pop-Rocker Morten Abel in the song "River Phoenix".
His final performance was in Dark Blood (2012), a film which was abandoned three weeks from completion.
Was fluent in Spanish.
Just a month before his death he had expressed an interest in starring in The Basketball Diaries (1995). His role was subsequently played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Best friend was Keanu Reeves.
Had a very close bond with Harrison Ford.
River's father was born in California. On his father's side, River had English, and distant German and French, ancestry. River's mother was born to an Ashkenazi Jewish family in New York (they were immigrants from Russia and Hungary).
Phoenix had a lazy left eye. This caused him to flutter and blink in order to center the iris. This action is visible in most of his performances. It is most apparent in 'Silent Tongue'(1994), in which he did not attempt to take charge of it at all; feeling that the quality added to the madness of his character.
One of GQ's 50 Most Stylish Leading Men of the Past Half Century (2010).
River and his brother Joaquin Phoenix both played the son of 'Richard Harris (I)' (gv)'s character. River in Silent Tongue (1993), and Joaquin in Gladiator (2000).
James Cameron has admitted that when he first started thinking about Titanic (1997) in the early nineties, he favored River for the lead. By the time the film was made, Leonardo DiCaprio was old enough to take the role.
Phoenix had signed onto the lead role in Broken Dreams, a screenplay written by John Boorman and Neil Jordan (to be directed by Boorman), and co-starring Winona Ryder. The film was put on hold due to Phoenix's death and has yet to be made.
Accepted his role in The Thing Called Love (1993) in an effort to both show off his musical abilities (he sang, played his own guitar, and wrote his character's songs) and make the transition from playing youths to adults roles.
Gus Van Sant had gotten Phoenix to agree to play the role of Cleve Jones in Milk (2008) when he was originally planning on making the movie in the early 1990s. The role was eventually played by Emile Hirsch in 2008.
He had expressed interest in playing the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse (1995) by Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Phoenix died before the movie was cast, with the role eventually going to Leonardo DiCaprio.
After his death, Gus Van Sant spoke about another collaboration between the two that ended up never happening. He was asked, "You were going to do a movie with River about Andy Warhol, right?" Van Sant said, "Yeah. River kind of looked like Andy in his younger days. But that project never really went forward.".

Personal Quotes (53)

I would rather quit while I was ahead. There's no need in overstaying your welcome.
I would just look at Harrison [Harrison Ford]; he would do stuff and I would not mimic it, but interpret it younger. Mimicking is a terrible mistake that many people make when they play someone younger, or with an age difference. Mimicking doesn't interpret true because you can't just edit it around. [on his interpretation of a young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)]
"I feel that there are great minds up there who would like to see what I can do with an Oscar nomination. I guess many people would change after a nomination in the way they see things. In my case it's really irrelevant in terms of what I do. Still, it was an incredible experience which I will put in my memories, like everything else." (On his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Running on Empty (1988) in 1989.)
If I have some celebrity, I hope I can use it to make a difference. The true social reward is that I can speak my mind and share my thoughts about the enviroment and civilisation itself. There's so much shit happening with people who are exploiting their positions and creating a lot of negativity.
Every day of my life since I finished My Own Private Idaho (1991), at some point in the day, I find the conversation somehow goes back to that film, because it was just such a great experience. I just start getting all joyous and start babbling about it. [on his feelings about My Own Private Idaho (1991) just after the film's release in 1991]
He was my brother and I loved him a great deal. It was just an awful, awful mistake. We fed off each other and learned a lot from each other. [R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, speaking soon after River's death. He later called River's passing "the most shattering experience of my life."]
I wish sometimes that I wasn't as conscious as I am.
I just always loved the names Helen or Ashley, I don't know, they seem familar to me, like I need to be with them...
I love Sam Shepard, he is like a father to me. We don't even have to talk, we communicate without words.
Animals are not our playthings. We are on this earth to protect them. It's our duty.
I project a definite innocence. A lot of that is just the way I grew up.
We respect our parents and they respect us. Even when we were younger, it was never, 'Well, I'm the parent and you're the kid.' You wouldn't be held back because of your age. Just the opposite. My father used to say, 'The youngest gets to yell the loudest because they're never listened to!' My father talks to Summer [sister Summer Phoenix], who is the youngest, the way he talks to my grandfather or anyone else. They always gave us a fair shot.
In simplicity there is truth.
We all have our distinct things. Leaf [brother Joaquin Phoenix] was the family clown--very witty, very smart. Mom had to work a lot, so Rainbow [sister Rain Phoenix] was the mother and the older sister and trendsetter. Liberty [sister Liberty Phoenix] was always the most physical, like an acrobat, very nimble and strong, a really beautiful girl. And Summer [sister Summer Phoenix] was the youngest, the baby of the family, with big brown eyes and blonde hair, more American-looking.
"I want kids, a family of my own. I'd like to give them the first eight years of their lives in the country. Then I'd want them educated, which I wasn't formally, although I had a tutor once when I was twelve. At times I miss a formal education, but at others I thank God for everything else I have now. What I have got from my childhood aren't toys, but memories. And happy memories are better than any toy.
It's a great feeling to think that I can be a friend to so many people through my movies.
I'm having a kind of hard time keeping my head above water in this crazy business.
In Stand by Me (1986), I realized that what I was creating was going to live on far longer than anything of me as a person. The characters are more powerful than the person that creates them.
I would get songs sung to me, like 'Old Man River, 'or kids would call me Mississippi and things like that. At the time, I wished I had a name that blended in more with my surroundings. Now, though, I've really learned to love it. From fifteen, I really liked it. It felt appropriate. Before that, I don't think it quite fitted me. I had to grow into it .
Sometimes I hear stuff like 'Hey man, wheres your skateboard, dude?' from people who think I'm Christian Slater.
We need an extreme movement because what is happening to animals is so extreme. Some misinformed people claim that animal rights activists are terrorists, but these people are simply ignorant of who the real terrorists are - the companies and industries that torture literally billions of animals each year. (The Animals Voice Magazine - 1989)
I don't see any point or any good in drugs that are as disruptive as cocaine.
It still strikes me as strange that anyone could have a moral objection against somebody's sexuality, it's like telling someone else how to clean their house.
Addiction is not just for bad people or scumbags - it's a universal disease.
We were constantly moving to different countries and adjusting to new things. It was such a free feeling. I'm glad I didn't have a traditional upbringing.
Vegetarianism is a link to perfection and peace.
We are taught to consume. And that's what we do. But if we realized that there really is no reason to consume, that it's just a mind set, that it's just an addiction, then we wouldn't be out there stepping on people's hands climbing the corporate ladder of success.
People wonder if I'll always be a part of this family and the answer is yes. My family has a lot of good energy going in one direction and because of it, we get a lot of things done. That's why I'll always spend a lot of time at Camp Phoenix.
Rich kids gave us their old clothes. They were the best clothes we ever had. We were these very pure, naive, poor children. The rich kids called us a lot of names but it never bothered us because we didn't know what the words meant.
When I was old enough to realize all meat was killed, I saw it as an irrational way of using our power, to take a weaker thing and mutilate it. It was like the way bullies would take control of younger kids in the schoolyard.
I did my best work in The Mosquito Coast. I know it wasn't such a big hit, but for me it was more meaningful than anything else I'd ever done.
I can't on my own change the regime in South Africa or teach the Palestinians to learn to live with the Israelies, but I can start with me.
Everything is ironic to me. There are moments I find hysterical, but I'm probably the only one who would find that, except for a few people.
Acting is like a Halloween mask that you put on.
Commercials were too phony for me. I just didn't like selling a product I didn't believe in.
Music is my main goal, but I'm not going to rush a record out. There are so many actors who have come out with albums these days. I don't want to do it because it's the thing to do. I want to wait until the time is right.
Music is a whole oasis in my head. The creation process is so personal and fulfilling.
Music is a hobby, because I'm not making any money out of it, but I put just as much conviction into that as I do into my acting.
I've been wanting to go into music ever since I can remember. I mean even before I became an actor. I just thought it would be a tough field to break into, so I became an actor instead.
I remember we'd roll into gas stations in our beat-up van and I'd tell the attendant, 'I'm going to be an actor!
I have twenty personalities on top of the ten I already have. So now I have thirty people in my head!
I like girls who are natural because I am natural in everything I do. If I meet a girl who is snobby and wants special treatment, she's not going to get it from me because she hasn't earned it. But I've been basically lucky because I've met mostly nice girls - and that's what attracts me.
I don't want to die in a car accident. When I die it'll be a glorious day. It'll probably be a waterfall.
I have a lot of chameleon qualities, I get very absorbed in my surroundings.
I sometimes lie, especially about personal things, because what does it matter? I am a kind of minute commodity, my name is no longer my own. I try to lie as much as I can when I'm interviewed. It's reverse psychology. I figure if you lie, they'll print the truth.
I would never, never do anything unless I believed in it.
I wouldn't eat a hamburger for 40,000 dollars.
I'd like to play every type of character, but only once. I like to experience things.
I'm really normal. I play football, go to the beach, drive. We have dogs. I can imagine people calling me a character, but I'm Joe Straight. I'm just a normal guy doing a job!
I really like acting because you can create a character. You can make someone who has never existed before. That's neat.
When I was younger, I was worried about how others viewed me and if I was good enough. I realize now that you can't mold an image or try to be something that you are not. As far as being an actor is concerned, your work really speaks for itself.
It might take a few of these movies before there's a natural stride with the whole issue. Then one day, it wont even be an issue - which is what I'm hoping. - On My Own Private Idaho (1991).
It's not about career. It's about believing in something, it's about prosperity and it's about caring and emphasizing and wanting to create the best, the most true to life, the most real. [on interview in 1991]

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