River Phoenix was just 23 years old and one of the most talented actors of his generation
Promising actor River Phoenix died on this day in 1993 at age 23
On October 31, 1993, promising actor River Phoenix was pronounced dead at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. His last completed film, Phoenix starred with Alan Bates, Richard Harris, and Dermot Mulroney in director Sam Shepard’s western “Silent Tongue” (1994). During a break in the filming on his new film “Dark Blood”, Phoenix went out to the Viper Room, a popular nightclub that was partly owned by Johnny Depp, with his brother Joaquin, his sister Rain, and his girlfriend Samantha Mathis. During the evening, Phoenix took a cocktail of drugs and became seriously ill. He was helped outside and began to have seizures. His brother Joaquin called 911 while his sister Rain tried to help Phoenix who was lying on the sidewalk. When the ambulance arrived, paramedics worked on resuscitating the young actor at the scene. Their efforts failed, and they transported him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he was declared dead in the early hours of October 31, 1993. River Jude Phoenix was born on August 23, 1970, in Madras, Oregon but spent much of his early childhood traveling with his family in South America. After becoming disillusioned with the Children of God cult, the Phoenix family fled Venezuela by stowing away on a cruise ship. Once back in America, River and his siblings all secured careers as child actors. River’s significant roles include Chris Chambers in “Stand By Me”, Mike Waters in “My Own Private Idaho”, “Young Indy in Indiana Jones” and the “Last Crusade”, and Danny Pope in “Running on Empty”, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. On November 12, the Los Angeles County coroner’s report revealed that Phoenix died from “acute multiple drug intoxication” including deadly amounts of cocaine and morphine. Traces of marijuana, prescription Valium, and an over-the-counter cold medicine were also found in his system. His death was ruled an accident and no foul play was involved. River Phoenix was just 23 years old and one of the most talented actors of his generation, he developed an unique acting style that was distinctively different from his other peers. As his career progressed River started to dive deeper into the characters he portrayed as an acting method, reportedly, was during one of those character development that Phoenix started to use drugs when preparing for Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho” where he portrayed a junkie gay prostitute. Phoenix, who often promoted a healthy lifestyle that didn’t included drugs, alcohol, smoking or eating meat, surprised movie fans around the world when his death causes were known. Aside of acting, Phoenix also was a musician and had his own band, the alternative rock project Aleka’s Attic, at the time of his death, Phoenix had been cast to star on “Interview With The Vampire”, he was replaced by Christian Slater.
Watch a short clip featuring River Phoenix acting on movies and TV
Watch a 1988 River Phoenix interview
By Ken Warren, 2017/18
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