River Phoenix Has Been Dead For 20 Years

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Today, the 31st October 2013, marks twenty years to the day since River Phoenix died after taking Heroin and Valium in the West Hollywood nightclub, The Viper Room. Crowds gathered this morning outside the bar with tears in their eyes and sporting tributes to the actor who was 23 when he overdosed.

River Phoenix
River Phoenix In 1988's 'Little Nikita.'

The teen sensation, who had appeared in 1988's Running On Empty and Little Nikita, had been out celebrating his brother Joaquin's 19th birthday at Johnny Depp's club on that fateful night in 1993. Joaquin, who has since appeared in films such as Walk The Line and Gladiator, made the frantic call to 911 that has been immortalised in a recording.

River had snorted heroin in the Viper Room toilets, threw up, and took Valium to steady himself. After reporting that he was having difficulty breathing, he passed out then had a fit outside the club "thrashing spasmodically," according to one onlooker.

River Phoenix Scout
River Played A Young Indiana Jones In 1989's 'Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.'

"I think he had a Valium or something, I don't know," Joaquin said before panicking. "Please!" he cries. "'Cause he's dying! Please!" Shortly afterwards, River died.

The enduring cult appeal of River Phoenix lies in his reflection of the youth attitudes and moods during the early nineties. He'd embarked on a promising movie career and looked set for mega fame with his natural talent and striking looks. As The Daily Beast so aptly puts it, "He was in every way a reflection of his era-a Generation Xer, like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who struggled to stay true to himself and who eventually succumbed to his own desire for escape."

River Phoenix
River Would Have Been 43 Had He Still Been Alive Today.

"People connected with him really deeply," says Gavin Edwards, author of the recently published Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind. "In this world of teen idols - where everyone feels polished - he was a beautiful boy and wonderful actor, but there was a degree of eccentricity and sense of being an outsider. People bonded with him. They thought he was trying to make the world a better place and not trying to book his next job," he added, via USA Today.

Born River Jude Bottom, Phoenix was born into a "hippie-ish" family who settled in Venezuela where they worked as missionaries and lived in poverty. River's humble performance beginnings came when he and his sister Rain busked for money which served as his eventual break when his family moved back to America when an agent spotted River, Joaquin, Summer and Rain singing on the street.

River Phoenix Jimmy Reardon
River As Jimmy Reardon: A Wasted Talent.

River's first appearance on television was singing on the show Fantasy, which gave him the experience and exposure to try out for bigger roles and soon he was working with directors such as Steven Spielberg. His final film, Dark Blood, premiered last year at the Netherlands Film Festival.


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Tags: River Phoenix - Joaquin Phoenix

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