Celebrities Movies The 90s

River Phoenix

River Phoenix was an American actor, musician, and sociopolitical activist from the 1980s until his death in 1993. Phoenix was acclaimed for his innate acting ability and rose rapidly to movie stardom, using his celebrity to champion many causes that were otherwise unpopular at the time.

Phoenix was born River Jude Bottom in 1970, the oldest child of four and son of hippie parents who named him after the “river of life” from the novel Siddhartha and the song “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. Along with his brother Joaquin and sisters Rain and Summer, Phoenix accompanied his parents in their missionary travels with the Christian religious group Children of God. However, the family grew disenchanted with the group’s leader and returned to the United States, changing their surname from Bottom to Phoenix to signify their spiritual rebirth.

Stricken by poverty, Phoenix and his siblings sang for money on the streets of Los Angeles until they were discovered by a talent agent named Iris Burton. Burton, who specialized in child actors, secured advertising roles for Phoenix and eventually casting calls at Paramount Pictures for him and his siblings. Phoenix’s first major role was in a 1982 CBS television series called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers which, despite being quickly canceled, assured Phoenix of further work in television.

Phoenix broke into movies three years later in the sci-fi film Explorers, playing a young, nerdy genius. The next year he was tapped to appear in Rob Reiner’s drama-comedy Stand By Me, which rocketed Phoenix to stardom. Phoenix also played the young Indiana Jones during flashbacks in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In 1989 Phoenix was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Running on Empty, a critically acclaimed film which secured his place in film history.

Though Phoenix was a passionate advocate for and financial supporter of environmentalism, PETA, and humanitarian causes, his charitable work hid a drug addiction of which few were aware. On October 31, 1993, Phoenix was found outside The Viper Room in Los Angeles, dying of a drug overdose. He was rushed to the hospital but was unable to be resuscitated, and was pronounced dead just before 2 o’clock A.M.

Explorers (1985)
Stand By Me (1986)
Little Nikita (1988)
Running on Empty (1988)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
I Love You to Death (1990)
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
The Thing Called Love (1993)
Silent Tongue (released 1994)


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