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Famous People Who Died Too Soon: River Phoenix

March 9, 2012 by staff 

Famous People Who Died Too Soon: River Phoenix, River Jude Phoenix (August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993) was an American film actor, musician, and teen icon. He was the oldest brother of fellow actors Rain, Joaquin, Liberty, and Summer Phoenix.

Phoenix’s work encompassed 24 films and television appearances, including the science fiction adventure film Explorers, the coming-of-age film Stand By Me, the action sequel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the independent adult drama My Own Private Idaho.

Phoenix began acting at age 10 in television commercials. He appeared in diverse roles, making his first notable appearance in the 1986 film Stand by Me, a well-received coming-of-age film based on a novella by Stephen King.

Phoenix made a transition into more adult-oriented roles with Running on Empty (1988), playing the son of fugitive parents in a well-received performance that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination, and My Own Private Idaho (1991), playing a gay hustler in search of his estranged mother.

 For his performance in the latter, Phoenix garnered enormous praise and won a Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival, along with Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics. He was listed by John Willis as one of twelve promising new actors of 1986.

On October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed and died of drug-induced heart failure on the sidewalk outside the West Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room. Prior to his death, Phoenix had been in the middle of filming the currently unreleased Dark Blood (1993).

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