The 1993 tragedy that tore apart River and Joaquin Phoenix

The 1993 tragedy that tore apart River and Joaquin Phoenix
– #tragedy #tore #River #Joaquin #Phoenix

River Phoenix was one of Hollywood’s most promising young talents when his life was cut tragically short in 1993.

The older brother of Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix was one of the lost stars of the ’90s. He was an immense talent, having shot to fame in the 1986 film Stand By Me and My Own Private Idaho in 1991.

He was only in his early 20s, but River was at the peak of his career. It all ended, however, when he walked into an infamous Los Angeles nightclub on October 30, 1993.

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River and Joaquin Phoenix pictured in 1985. (Getty)

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River attended the Viper Room, a club owned by actor Johnny Depp, the night before Halloween with his girlfriend Samantha Mathis. He wasn’t supposed to go out clubbing that night, Mathis later told The Guardian.

The couple had originally intended to just drop off River’s siblings, Joaquin (then known as Leaf) and Rain.

“But when we arrived he said to me: ‘Oh, there are some people playing music tonight in the club who want me to play with them – that’s OK, right?'” she told the publication in 2018.

“Whenever his brother’s name is mentioned, Joaquin’s face goes far-away looking. You can visibly see the pain.”

The exclusive Viper Room was established that same year and was a regular haunt for some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Michael Hutchence of INXS played his last gig there in 1997 and some artists fled there to escape paparazzi.

Sadly, it was also renowned for its drug scene.

That night, River had planned on performing with the band P, a combination of Flea and John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Depp and several others.

River Phoenix
River Phoenix died prematurely at age 23 due to a drug overdose. (Getty)

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During the performance, according to friend Bob Forrest, River said he was feeling unwell.

Forrest wrote in his book Running with Monsters that the actor had been doing drugs all day and was concerned he was in the midst of an overdose.

Just 45 minutes later, River stumbled outside The Viper Room and collapsed onto the sidewalk.

Mathis, Rain, Flea and Forrest all attempted to help revive their dying brother and friend, while Joaquin called 911 from a payphone. River was suffering from cardiac arrest and was soon rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre.

“He’s having seizures,” Joaquin said on the phone in audio of the 911 call. “Get over here please, please, cause he’s dying, please.”

Early on Halloween morning, River was pronounced dead at the age of 23.

The death of River, a precocious force within Hollywood, sent a ripple effect of grief throughout the celebrity scene in Los Angeles.

The young actor was a friend to many big name stars, including Keanu Reeves, Matthew Perry, Michael J. Fox and Ethan Hawke.

River Phoenix
The young actor was nominated for an Oscar before his death. (Getty)

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But none could understand the pain River’s younger brother, Joaquin, was feeling.

Joaquin and River shared a remarkably close bond, having grown up in the same bizarre household and raised by their travelling hippy parents.

A famous 1985 photo of the pair, cooking at a stovetop, is remembered as a symbol of their unbreakable bond, even in death.

Joaquin was only 19 when River overdosed outside The Viper Room. The memory of seeing his beloved sibling dying on the sidewalk never truly left the Joker actor.

“River is the largest influence, to this day, on Joaquin’s life,” an anonymous Hollywood casting director told Page Six in 2020.

“Whenever his brother’s name is mentioned, Joaquin’s face goes far-away looking. You can visibly see the pain. Still. It’s always there.”

Joaquin and his wife, actress Rooney Mara, even named their son River after the actor’s dearly departed brother.

Joaquin Phoenix.
Joaquin Phoenix made a rare reference to his late brother during his 2020 Oscars acceptance speech. (Getty)

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During his acceptance speech for his Best Actor Oscar in 2020Joaquin also made a rare public statement about River.

He credited the late star for steering him onto the path of becoming a famous actor.

“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow’,” Joaquin said, as the crowd of Oscar attendees cheered.

“The night River died is forever burned into Joaquin’s consciousness,” another film producer told Page Six of Joaquin.

“It has a lot to do with how intensely private he is and how he tries to keep every aspect of his personal life secret. He’s just always afraid of revealing his hurt.”

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