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Overview for River Phoenix
River Phoenix

River Phoenix


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Also Known As: River Jude Bottom Died: October 31, 1993
Born: August 23, 1970 Cause of Death: Morphine and Cocaine Overdose (Speedball)
Birth Place: Madras, Oregon, USA Profession: Cast ... actor musician singer


a pay phone and made the later notorious 9-11 call. Within four minutes, an ambulance arrived, but the seizures and his heart had stopped. Flea insisted on riding in the ambulance as the lifeless actor was rushed to Cedars Sinai Hospital. Despite the efforts of all involved, Phoenix proved unresponsive. He was officially pronounced at 1:51 a.m. on Halloween 1993, dead from a massive cocaine and heroin overdose â¿¿ a speedball â¿¿ the same combo that killed Belushi and would also fell comedian Chris Farley only four years after Phoenix.

Response to Phoenixâ¿¿s death was immediate, with makeshift tributes and shrines erected outside the Viper Room, as well as Deppâ¿¿s decision to close the club for a week, as well as every year on Halloween. The horrific, unexpected and public nature of his death shocked and intrigued young Hollywood as well as fans and critics, as his passing away from an overdose of street drugs â¿¿ so at odds with his seemingly healthy lifestyle â¿¿ marked for many, not only the end of a promising talent, but also the innocence of a generation. Although Phoenixâ¿¿s family and friends chose to close ranks and not discuss his life and career in great detail after his death, his impact on popular culture was profound for someone with only 13 (released) film credits. His work and memory inspired a multitude of artistic responses, including tribute songs from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Natalie Merchant, Tom Petty, R.E.M. and many others. Both "The Thing Called Love" and Sam Shepardâ¿¿s metaphysical Western "Silent Tongue" (1993) were released posthumously, with reviewers again touting the actorâ¿¿s unorthodox, wise-beyond his years choices when it came to selecting non-pretty boy projects. At the time of his passing, he had only days of work left on "Dark Blood," but unfortunately, his scenes were key, leading the entire film to be scrapped. The actor had been cast as the interviewer in Neil Jordanâ¿¿s Anne Rice adaptation of "Interview with the Vampire" (1994) and would have started production in New Orleans in only weeks, but was ultimately replaced last minute by friend Christian Slater, who donated his salary to Phoenixâ¿¿s favorite charities. Although the decision later of family and friends to protect Phoenixâ¿¿s memory may have prevented generations from fully appreciating his legacy, their silence also helped keep the spotlight on what mattered most to River â¿¿ his body of work and his world beliefs â¿¿ rather than on his tragic demise., Phoenix hung out with real street hustlers and drug dealers on the streets of Portland, OR where the film was partially shot. Believing he had to become Mike, he delved into heroin use full bore, aided and abetted by several cast members and real-life hustlers serving as consultants â¿¿ many of whom ingested massive street drugs, all the while living together in Van Santâ¿¿s house during the infamous shoot.

The die had been cast and Phoenix would begin a slow, torturous slide into heroin and cocaine addiction for the final two years of his life, although he would clean up in time for each production, more or less. He notched a small role in the Robert Redford thriller "Sneakers" (1992), reuniting with father-figure Poitier and hitting it off with new father-figure, Dan Aykroyd, who recognized in the sensitive drug addict similarities with his late partner, John Belushi, who had famously overdosed on heroin and cocaine in 1982. Aykroyd was but one of many friends and family members who noticed the actorâ¿¿s deteriorating physical presence as he lost weight and began lacking basic hygiene as well. He also began spending more time than usual in L.A. versus Gainesville in order to be closer to his "Idaho" friends like Reeves and new best buddy, Flea, sometime actor and bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In fact, Phoenix became entranced with the rock-n-roll scene, as he has been performing music since he was a child. When in town, he lived with Flea and befriended bands like R.E.M and the Butthole Surfers, among others. Also a talented musician, Phoenix had formed the rock band Alekaâ¿¿s Attic with his sister Rain a few years prior and had always hoped to break out as a musician, so he was naturally drawn to that world â¿¿ a world that only exacerbated his drug usage. Unfortunately, by the time he began filming his next movie, word in Hollywood had spread â¿¿ that the supposed clean-living golden boy had a serious substance abuse problem.

For his next film, Phoenix convinced Peter Bogdanovich that he was not only clean, but was the perfect country-music singing bad-boy for the directorâ¿¿s latest project, the country-western drama "The Thing Called Love" (1993). It was on the set of this film â¿¿ which also co-starred a pre-fame Sandra Bullock and Dermot Mulroney â¿¿ where he met and fell in love with actress Samantha Mathis. Despite his happiness over his new girlfriend and a chance to sing on film, the actor seemed increasingly dissatisfied with Hollywood and his place in it during interviews. Knowing he was â¿¿ as he later told friend and "Idaho" co-star Bill Richert â¿¿ "having trouble keeping his head above water in this crazy business," he expressed his desire to retire from acting and to devote himself to his family, his music and environmental activism. This was a man who spent his pay checks buying up rain forests in South America in an effort to preserve them. But someone had to pay the family bills, and when he was approached by director George Sluizer to star in the apocalyptic thriller "Dark Blood" (1993), he reluctantly signed on to the now infamous film. During production in the New Mexico desert, Sluizer and his leading lady, Judy Davis, clashed constantly, leaving Phoenix in the middle. Davis also made things unpleasant for her young co-star, who often ended up in tears in calls to family and friends back home. The young actor had never encountered anything but kindness from his co-stars, many of whom treated him as their own son. When production wrapped in the desert, it was back to L.A. for the final days left in the shoot.

Tragically, however, Phoenix⿿s brilliant career and life would end shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles. On Oct. 30, 1993, he, Mathis, and his visiting brother Joaquin and sister Rain traveled from their hotel to the Viper Room, an exclusive Sunset Strip nightclub owned in part by Johnny Depp. Phoenix had planned to jam onstage along with Flea, Depp and other band members. The reasons were never clear ⿿ it was rumored Flea broke news to Phoenix that he could not play with them that night ⿿ but at some point, he went to the bathroom to take drugs. A so-called friend offered the actor lines while both were crammed in a stall. After snorting the substance, the reaction was almost immediate. A dazed Phoenix became disoriented and vomited within seconds, not realizing he had snorted a line of extremely pure drugs. As he mumbled "too much⿦too much," he was handed a Diazepam (Xanax) to calm down, which only worsened the situation. By now, his siblings and girlfriend began wondering where he was. Upon his return to the table, it was obvious that Phoenix was in dire shape, though no one knew what he had taken. Because of his start-stop method of taking drugs ⿿ he would be clean for weeks before hitting them hard again ⿿ the medical examiner believed his body was not used to either the amount he took or the drug⿿s purity like it might have been were he a daily drug user with built-up tolerance. Instead, he had ingested eight times what was considered lethal levels of cocaine and heroin. The drug combo was quickly shutting down his organs ⿿ the heroin slowing his heart rate and the cocaine speeding it up. In the early morning hours of Oct. 31, 1993, Phoenix was escorted outside the club and collapsed on the sidewalk, whereupon he had several violent seizures. As horrified onlookers dressed in costumes looked on, Rain threw herself across her brother⿿s body to stop the spasms while Joaquin raced to

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