20 Years Passed since River Phoenix Dies
Even for those of us who didn't come of age until after River Phoenix's reign, it's obvious that the actor had a big impact on Hollywood. Whether it was his young, promising talent, his camera-ready looks, or just his exotic upbringing, he's still fascinating movie fans even twenty years after his death. Here at R29, we're still reeling from his tragic passing, so we're taking today, the anniversary of his death, to reflect on the actor's life and legacy.
It’s 20 years since iconic movie actor River Phoenix died of an overdose in the early hours of October 31, 1993.
In his short career, though, he became something of a poster boy for the grunge generation, thanks to his understated but intensely charismatic performances in movies like Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. His tragic demise on the pavement outside LA’s Viper Rooms nightclub only helped cement his status as a screen icon. But he could certainly act a bit too, as he showed from his first major roles as a teenager.
River was this beautiful golden boy with floppy golden hair, the James Dean look-alike, the risk-taker, the indie musician, the environmentalist, the vegan, the Oscar-nominated talent, the badass with the cool name and the big heart. River Phoenix, who died just five months before Kurt Cobain shot himself, seems to cast a fainter shadow than the others. Maybe it's because he was only 23 — not even old enough to be a part of the 27 Club, and, the bulk of his time spent acting, not that caliber of musician anyway. Possibly, his death, caused by a mistake, an overdose when he seemed on the verge of getting clean after a spate of attempted interventions by friends and family, doesn't come with enough internal horror (compared, say, to Cobain's; certainly, it’s horrible enough). "Apparently the nineties had room for only one angel-faced blond boy, too pained by the world to live in it," writes Edwards.