River Phoenix

Actor, Musician, Singer
An enormously gifted actor who epitomized the self-destructive soul of a generation, River Phoenix was the eldest son of a family of artistic souls who spent their formative years as penniless Children of God cult ... Read more »
Born: 08/23/1970 in Madras, Oregon, USA


Actor (20)

Dark Blood 2012 (Movie)

Boy (Actor)

Silent Tongue 1994 (Movie)

Talbot Roe (Actor)

The Thing Called Love 1993 (Movie)

James Wright (Actor)

Sneakers 1992 (Movie)

Carl Arbogast (Actor)

Dogfight 1991 (Movie)

Birdlace (Actor)

My Own Private Idaho 1991 (Movie)

Mike Waters (Actor)

I Love You to Death 1990 (Movie)

Devo (Actor)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989 (Movie)

Young Indy (Actor)

A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon 1988 (Movie)

Jimmy Reardon (Actor)

Little Nikita 1988 (Movie)

Jeff N Grant (Actor)

Running on Empty 1988 (Movie)

Danny Pope (Actor)

Stand By Me 1986 (Movie)

Chris Chambers (Actor)

The Mosquito Coast 1986 (Movie)

Charlie Fox (Actor)

Explorers 1985 (Movie)

Wolfgang Muller (Actor)

Celebrity 1983 - 1984 (TV Show)


Seven Brides For Seven Brothers 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)


Surviving (TV Show)

Music (1)

The Thing Called Love 1993 (Movie)

("Lone Star State of Mine") (Song)


An enormously gifted actor who epitomized the self-destructive soul of a generation, River Phoenix was the eldest son of a family of artistic souls who spent their formative years as penniless Children of God cult members. Marked by immense physical beauty, sensitivity and a social consciousness well beyond his years, Phoenix made his film debut in Joe Dante's childhood fantasy "Explorers" (1985) before breaking out as the streetwise but kindhearted Chris Chambers in Rob Reiner's beloved coming-of-age drama "Stand by Me" (1986). A string of high-profile roles followed, including Harrison Ford's eldest son in "The Mosquito Coast" (1986), a social-climbing teen in "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon" (1988) and the son of Soviet spies being hunted by Sidney Poitier in "Little Nikita" (1988). Earning an Oscar nomination as the son of fugitive radicals in "Running on Empty" (1988), Phoenix also played the teenaged version of the famed archeologist in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989) and wowed critics with his Independent Spirit Award-winning turn as a gay hustler in Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho" (1991). Famous for his activism on behalf of animal rights and environmental causes, the devoted vegan struggled privately with drug addiction while publicly courting actresses Martha Plimpton and Samantha Mathis; the latter starring with Phoenix in his final film, "The Thing Called Love" (1993). Tragically, in the early morning hours of Oct. 31, 1993, River Phoenix died of a massive drug overdose outside of Johnny Depp's Sunset Strip nightclub, The Viper Room. Although the collective decision made by his family and friends to never publicly discuss him limited younger generations' knowledge of his impressive cultural legacy, River Phoenix left behind a body of work and scale of artistic potential that marked him as the greatest actor of his generation; a figure whose untimely death signaled a turning point for an already disillusioned Generation X.


John Amram

Born 1947 in Fontana, CA; missionary with Children of God; former Children of God's archbishop of Venezuela and the Caribbean Islands

Arlyn Jochebed

Born 1944 in Bronx, NY; former missionary with Children of God Worked as temp at NBC California in 1978

Samantha Mathis Actor

Met while co-starring in "The Thing Called Love" (1993) Together until Phoenix's death Oct. 31, 1993; Mathis was with him the night he died

Summer Phoenix Actor

Born Dec. 10, 1978

Joaquin Phoenix Actor

Born Oct. 28, 1974

Liberty Phoenix Actor

Born July 5, 1976 in Venezuela

Rain Phoenix Actor

Born Nov. 21, 1972

Martha Plimpton Actor

Met during the filming of "The Mosquito Coast" (1986) Had a high-profile relationship for several years Relationship ended due to Plimpton's objection to Phoenix's recreational drug use, which claimed his life October 1993



Final screen appearence, "Silent Tongue" (finished filming, 1992)


Joined ensemble cast including Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, and Sidney Poitier in "Sneakers"


Cast in George Sluizer's "Dark Blood"; Phoenix died before filming completed


Co-starred with Keanu Reeves as young hustlers in Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho"


Played in band Aleka's Attic with sister Rain; featured on a compilation album Tame Yourself, made to benefit the animal-rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals)


Cast as Young Indy in Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"


Played the eldest son of a fugitive family in Sidney Lumet's "Running on Empty"


Co-starred in Rob Reiner's coming-of-age classic "Stand by Me"


Made film debut in "Explorers"


Began TV acting career at age 12 on "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (CBS)


With sister Rainbow, did audience warm-ups for TV show "Real Kids" (date approximate)


Family moved to Los Angeles after Rainbow and River won local talent contests


Parents left the Children of God; lived in Caracas where River and Rainbow sang religious songs for money and food in the street


Returned to U.S. at age seven; settled in Florida


Family moved to South America


Traveled throughout southwestern U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico as missionaries for Children of God


Moved to Colorado where parents became members of evangelical cult Children of God

Appeared in commercials but quit when he realized that he couldn't ethically support selling a product he didn't use

Spent nomadic childhood travelling the Northwest with parents who were fruit pickers at the time

Bonus Trivia


When the family left a missionary cult, they changed their last name to Phoenix to symbolize rebirth from the ashes.


Phoenix's first name came from the river of life in Herman Hesse's novel Siddhartha and middle name from the Beatles' song "Hey, Jude."


Phoenix celebrated his 21st birthday in a typically (for him) offbeat manner: "I went into a bar, showed the guy my I.D. and said I wanted an herb tea. I celebrated with a chamomile." – from the New York Post, Sept. 12, 1991