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
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  • Lili B.
    a day

    So they are vegan but drug's are ok?! Oook... 😕

  • Karen S.
    2 days

    Another one lost to drugs

  • Einar P.
    3 days

    Brutally sad ending to a terriffic career!

  • Alexandra S.
    3 days

    Aw River, 😢

  • Jodi C.
    5 days

    I must be the only person who did not know who river was back then.

  • Jodi C.
    5 days

    Did they leave that cult before they were molested.

  • Kelly C.
    5 days

    His death changed me. It still kills me. I truly believe John Frusciante should have been charged for killing him 😪😪

  • Dodko K.
    6 days

    What is the melody or song name at the end?

  • Sarah B.
    6 days


  • Anna L.
    6 days

    River was amazing ! He could have done so much in life. Rip❤️

  • Chantelle M.
    07/01/2020 11:12


  • Jade B.
    06/30/2020 19:22

    I remember you loved him in stand by me, we used to watch it all the time

  • Emma S.
    06/30/2020 18:32

    thought you’d enjoy ❤️

  • Emma S.
    06/30/2020 18:32

    Joaquin 🙂

  • Debra S.
    06/30/2020 12:12


  • Lisa L.
    06/29/2020 00:42

    He would have been 50 this year forever young rip River

  • Daniel W.
    06/27/2020 11:51

    never knew this was his brother. Great short 👌🏻

  • Jaime S.
    06/25/2020 15:36

    watch when you have time

  • Patricia R.
    06/24/2020 09:20

    Why are we looking up to a drug addict as a hero of some sort. Gives kids and inspiring kid actors the wrong message.

  • Lori A.
    06/24/2020 09:06

    this is the guy that played the joker as a kid