River Phoenix, actor: biography and curiosities

River Phoenix, a promising Oscar-nominated actor, died at the age of 23 from a drug overdose. We retrace his life and career

River Phoenix, the stage name of River Jude Bottom, was born on a farm in Madras, Oregon, on August 23, 1970. The name River is due to the river of life found in Hermann Hesse's book "Siddhartha". The parents, John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Dunetz, lead a bohemian lifestyle and constantly move with their newborn son until, in 1972, the course of their lives changes direction: they join the religious movement The Children of God and, as missionaries, they travel to Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In those years three brothers were born, Rain, Joaquin (now a successful actor) and Liberty.

As a child, River learns to play the guitar and sing. In 1978, now disillusioned, the parents decided to leave the religious group and move to Florida, where the young man participated in some talent shows and stood out for his musical and acting skills. In order to take advantage of their children's skills, the family then moved to California. River Phoenix thus appears in two commercials and gets a part in the television series "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (1982). He then recites in "Hotel", "Family Ties" and "Survivors". In 1985 he therefore made his film debut in "Explorers", where Ethan Hawke also appeared.

“Stand By Me” (1986), based on a Stephen King novel, gives him his most important cinematographic role; In fact, River Phoenix obtained the first public awards thanks to this interpretation. He then works on "The Mosquito Coast", "Little Nikita" and "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon". In 1988, he won an Oscar nomination for "Running on Empty", directed by Sidney Lumet. Phoenix then plays the young adventurer in Steven Spielberg's film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989), with Harrison Ford. In 1990 he starred in the comedy "I Love You to Death".

In 1991, he worked in Gus Van Sant's film "My Own Private Idaho" and in "Dogfight", but cinema was not his only passion: with his sister Rain, he formed the band Aleka's Attic. Phoenix, a great supporter of animal rights, a vegan and a convinced environmentalist, does not go out of his way alongside Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier in the thriller "Sneakers" (1992). However, his promising career was suddenly cut short: considered one of the most talented actors of his generation, River Phoenix died on October 31, 1993 for a cocktail of drugs, associated with cocaine, morphine and marijuana. His ashes are scattered on the family ranch in Florida.

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