The Life of River Phoenix

Without his older brother, Joaquin Phoenix may not have become the actor he is today. River Phoenix was a rising star who died at 23 — this is his story.

'The Vegan James Dean'

He was Joaquin Phoenix’s brother, role model and he was a rising star in Hollywood, he died at the age of 23, this is River Phoenix. River Phoenix or River Bottom, his real name, was born in 1970, in Oregon. At the age of 2, his family joined the cult The Family International and moved to Venezuela. He grew up with his three sisters and his brother, all younger than him: Rain, Liberty, Summer and Joaquin.

In 1977, his family left the cult, moved back to the United States and changed their last name to Phoenix. At 7, he decided to go vegan with his sisters and brother. As a child, his parents encouraged him to become an actor. At 16, he got noticed thanks to his role in "Stand by Me” and "Mosquito Coast" alongside Harrison Ford. Two years later, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “Running on Empty.” In 1989, he played the role of young Indiana in Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.” At that time, he encouraged his brother Joaquin to work on his acting. With his sister, he also became involved in the Peta association against wearing fur.

At 21, he stole the show in Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho", playing the role of an outsider who prostitutes himself alongside Keanu Reeves. On the night of October 30 to 31, 1993, he died of an overdose in the arms of his brother in front of a nightclub in Los Angeles owned by Johnny Depp. Dubbed "The Vegan James Dean", he was a staunch defender of animal welfare and just as staunchly dedicated to what we now call sustainability, buying up chunks of rainforest to protect it from logging. River Phoenix was 23 years old.


11/22/2019 11:19 AM


  • Rachel K.
    6 days

    Love your brother, but you are one my favorite actors ❤️

  • Diane Y.
    09/29/2021 23:55


  • Rachel B.
    09/28/2021 06:18


  • Jul M.
    09/19/2021 05:48

    I'm glad they recognised the violence in those actions. I've been vegan 12 years. I was seriously upset by Rivers passing.

  • Bryony D.
    09/02/2021 05:44

    Beautiful family ❤

  • Leigh A.
    08/30/2021 13:31

    Loved him. Too young.

  • Shell A.
    08/27/2021 16:11

    He looks just like joaquin

  • Dinah P.
    08/24/2021 21:58

    Man I loved him 💙

  • Leigh M.
    08/24/2021 12:20

    Amazing talent!

  • Tracey L.
    08/24/2021 00:05

    OMG . He says the US has become a police state. Read his comments about the pressure cooker . Very insightful

  • Dianne S.
    08/23/2021 17:19

    It still brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes, when you are young and vulnerable, you can get caught up in choices you would maybe not make if you had more life experience. He was a fantastic actor, and a sensitive human being. It was such a tragedy. Joaquin has the most amazing performances, and is one of the best actors of our time. River gave him some very good advice. Bless their family. 🌹

  • Monica V.
    08/23/2021 12:46

    So sad😞

  • Lourdes Q.
    08/23/2021 07:00

    At 55, I tend to cry whenever I see a video on River. He was a part of my growing up and young adulthood. I was so impressed by his subtle or natural acting in "Stand By Me." In my twenties, I saw him again in the movie, "My Own Private Idaho." Then he died. But years later, Joaquin surfaced in the limelight through "Gladiator." It is as if, when River prompted Joaquin to watch "Raging Bull," he somehow knew Joaquin has to continue what he had started. The great River flows through Joaquin forever.

  • Inez O.
    08/23/2021 06:21

    It may seem dumb, but I still have a hard time with he's death. I was quite fascinated by him as a young teenager ❤️😢

  • Rene G.
    08/23/2021 04:40

    His close friends and his gf at the time said when River died he was under a great deal of stress as he was filming his last movie and the main actress was being very hateful and cruel even to River and he took it extra hard as they said he was a sensitive soul who was very empathetic. To make matters worse he was expecting to get to play guitar that night with flea but flea ended up having someone else play instead of River which hurt him even more. That's when he did the drug that caused him to over dose. So sad that such a beautiful soul left us too soon. I'm sure he would have went on to do even greater things if he had lived. River was a fantastic actor and from what I gather from documentaries and what his friends have said and Joaquin that he was a wonderful person as well.

  • Wanda C.
    08/21/2021 18:03

    I meant what I said about River Phoenix so sorry about your brother

  • Gareth O.
    08/21/2021 16:58

    It is sad. He had so much more to do....

  • Kristine L.
    08/21/2021 05:56

    I cried for days when he died, to young, to sad 😿💗

  • Elise E.
    08/21/2021 02:11

    Very sad

  • Merri R.
    08/19/2021 22:00

    No meat, fish etc. no fur - but drugs are ok?????

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