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River Phoenix was an Academy Award nominee and promising young actor who died at the young age of 23 from a drug overdose.
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River Phoenix was born on August 23, 1970 in Madras, Oregon. His breakthrough film role was in "Stand by Me" based on a novella by Stephen King. He earned an Academy Award nomination for "Running on Empty" directed by Sydney Lumet. Phoenix also starred as the young Indy in the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Phoenix died of a drug overdose outside West Hollywood's Viper Room in 1993.
Actor, activist. Born River Jude Bottom on August 23, 1970, in Madras, Oregon. Considered one of the most talented actors of his generation, River Phoenix had his promising career cut short by his premature death in 1993. He was born on a farm where his parents, John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Dunetz, were working. The couple followed a bohemian lifestyle, moving around a lot with their infant son. They named their son after the river of life in Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha.
In 1972, the Bottoms took their lives in a new direction, joining the Children of God religious movement. Phoenix became a big brother when the couple had second child, a daughter named Rain, that same year. As missionaries for the Children of God, the Bottoms lived in Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Phoenix gained two more siblings during this time—brother Joaquin and sister Liberty. (Sister Summer was born later.)
As a young child, Phoenix learned to play guitar and sing. River and Rain performed on the streets in Caracas, Venezuela, to earn money and pass out literature on their religious beliefs. His parents eventually became disillusioned with their religious group and decided to leave it and return to the United States in 1978. They spent time in Florida where Phoenix and some of the other children performed in talent shows and started to attract attention for their musical and acting abilities.
Before long, Phoenix and his family moved out to California to try to make in the entertainment industry. His mother found an agent to represent all of the children and got a job working as a secretary at NBC. At first, Phoenix landed a few commercials. He then got a role as the youngest brother on the television series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in 1982. While the show only lasted one season, Phoenix continued to work, making a number of guest spots on other shows, such as Hotel and Family Ties. He also had a notable role in the 1985 television movie Surviving.
That same year, Phoenix made his film debut playing a young inventor in Explorers (1985) with Ethan Hawke. His next film, however, led to a career breakthrough. In Stand by Me (1986), four friends (Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell) set out to find the body of a missing teenager. Phoenix earned raves for his performance as a youth with a troubled home life in this coming-of-age adventure drama based on a novella by Stephen King.
Phoenix next appeared as Harrison Ford’s son in The Mosquito Coast (1986), which received mixed reviews.
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Explore the cast of Stand by Me, the 1986 coming-of-age flick, including Wil Wheaton, who portrayed Gordie; River Phoenix, the wise-guy-yet-wise Chris; Corey Feldman, who played Teddy; Jerry O'Connell, the face of Vern; Kiefer Sutherland, who portrayed Ace; and Richard Dreyfuss, who played the writer. View full biographies, photos, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
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