Remembering River Phoenix : Hollywood Hearthrob of the 80's
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Remembering River Phoenix : Hollywood Hearthrob of the 80's

An article remembering River Phoenix, Hollywood hearthrob and promising actor of the 80's. Star of 1986 film"Stand by Me".

River Phoenix would be 40 years old by now on August 23 who was born in the year 1970 in Madras, Oregon USA. His untimely death in 1993 shocked Hollywood which includes him on the long list of celebrities who died young at the peak of their career. Here are other things about River Phoenix, a heartthrob and a promising actor of the 80’s.

Ten Things You Want to Know About River Phoenix

1.  Born as River Jude Bottom where his name was derived from the Beatles’ song “Hey Jude” and from the “River of Life” Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha.

2.  Parents are Arlyn Dunetz and John Bottom. An older brother to Hollywood character actor, Joaquin Phoenix.  He would be happy now to know about Joaquin success in Hollywood  who starred and gained awards for his award winning movies, "Gladiator" and "Wallk The Line".  Other siblings are Liberty, Rain and Summer.

3.  His first love was music. Together with his sister Rain, they dreamt of becoming recording artists. At the very young age, he often played the guitar with Rain performing on the streets to help his family financially. He was known as an actor, but by heart he was a singer, songwriter, and a well versed guitarist. He formed the Aleka’s Attic Band in 1987, and recorded a number of songs.  He also collaborated with his friend bassist from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael "Flea" Balzary for some projects. 

4.  With no formal acting education, his career begun in Television in 1980 when he finally appeared on a TV show “Fantasy” with sister rain singing.  Other TV shows follows Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Celebrity, Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (with brother Joaquin). It's Your Move, Surviving: A Family in Crisis with Molly Ringwald.

5.  His career jumped into film  in 1985 with the “Explorers”, a science-fiction film that landed him on the first major role. He also starred as a teenage Indiana Jones in 1989 film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" with Harrison Ford. Other notable performance was from the movie "My Own Private Idaho".

6.  His performance from 1989 film “Running on Empty” gave him an Oscar and Golden Globe-nomination for Best Supporting Actor category. While he finally won the Best Supporting Actor award from the National Board of Review. Other recognition includes a Best Actor award from Venice Film Festival, the National Society of Film Critics and the Independent Spirit Awards from the 1990 "My Own Private Idaho".

7.  Inspite of the fame, he was involved in several causes about animal rights, environment, and some political issues. He was a spokesperson for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and won their Humanitarian award in 1990 for his fund-raising efforts. From a Phil Donahue Show in 1990, he appeared with Lisa Bonet, Raul Julia, John Robbins who talked about vegetarianism, veganism, environmentalism, vaccinations, breast-feeding, ecology, rain forests, health, well-being, activism, Diet for a New America.

8.  Before his death, he had unfinished project, a never released movie entitled “Dark Blood” which was almost 90% completed.  His next project would be the "Interview with the Vampire" opposite Tom Cruise, the role later went to Christian Slater.

9.  River died at the age of 23 on October 31, 1993 outside the West Hollywood Viper Room night club. The cause of his death remains mysterious but reported as due to overdosed on drugs.  His going into drugs might be a result of his problems and depression due to the sad childhood experience he had with “Children of God”, a religious cult his family belonged to in the early 1970's. At his previous interview, he mentioned that he was molested and lost his virginity at the age of four while in the cult. The family later separated from the cult because of the malpractice they have seen.

10.  River is a close pal to equally talented actor Johnny Depp who was devastated when the actor died.

He joined the wagon of celebrities whose death were associated with cocaine and drugs. His humanitarian works and  independent views that he fought during his short life would separate him from the list. Who would better know him but only the people who loved the young man, and friends who stood by him along the road. His fans from the 80’s had grown by age and life experiences. But for them River Phoenix will always be remembered who was been a part of their teenage life that once adored and cheered him.

Hollywood noticed his remarkable talents from his role in 1986 “Stand By Me” directed by Rob Reiner based on the novel “The Body” by Stephen King. With co-stars Wil Wheaton, Cory Feldman,Jerry O’Connell, and 24 TV series star, Kiefer Sutherland.  Movie Song "Stand By Me" performed by Ben E. King.

"For some, it's the last real taste of innocence, and the first real taste of life. But for everyone, it's the time that memories are made of."

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Comments (21)

Great article. River Phoenix had incredible promise and I'm sure he would have become a great actor had he lived.

I had a huge crush on River when I was in my teens. I loved him from Stand By Me and Mosquito Coast. nice tribute.

I am obviously a fan too. :-D

Tragic loss of a life that had hardly begun. I didn't realise Joaquin was his brother, he played a great part in Gladiator. I didn't realise "Stand by me" was based on a Stephen King novel either, that is a fantastically moving film and all the boys played brilliant parts to a very great script.

A great actor well remembered. River may have flowed early back at the source and he maybe at peace where he was now.

Good article.

Thanks for this.

It's hard imagining he is the older one in the Phoenix family. We never got to see him age so I always feel like Joaquin is the older one...

Great article, I loved River, he had so much potential, I really believe he could have been as big as Leonardo Dicaprio

Fab work Simply! Really great facts about River. I had not realized that Joaquin was his brother. It really is to bad about what happened to River. Great read!

Yes, River could have been a big star now like Johnny Depp and Leonardo Di Caprio.

I will watch "Stand By Me" over and over. What a great movie and great actor River Phoenix was. He was also great in "Mosquitto Coast" with Harrison Ford. He is missed by so many and what a tragic loss it was. His legacy will live on and his brother is also a great actor and artist, as well.

This happens sometimes, but somehow I was logged off. The above comment is mine and what a great memorial for such a great actor and humanitarian. Excellent write and read!

Interesting article, especially the part about his family being in a cult. I never knew that.


Thanks for that. It was a very sad death.


Honestly no matter how much time goes by, I will never stop to wonder where River Phoenix would be at if he was still alive today. One of the best actors I have ever and I mean ever seen on screen. Thank God for Joauqin though I really hope he drops the rap act and comes back to acting. RIP Rio, you're greatly missed and I hope you're happier and better where you are at now then you ever were.


well, the role he was going to play in "interview for a vampire" was the role that went to Christian Slater, not Tom Cruise..

Thanks Catharina for the inputs, yes, it was Christian Slater not Brad Pitt (It was not previously written that Tom did the role)

This was great. Its funny after so many years, he is still iconic today. "Stand By Me" classic! Thanks for the video!

I can recall his face through his brother from the movie GLADIATOR.

This family was so talented. He is missed.