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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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An inside look at the last twenty four hours of the life of River Phoenix.
A short biography of Johnny Depp who started out as a TV heartthrob on "21 Jump Street" and moved onto eccentric, big screen roles in "Edward Scissorhands," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Pirates of the Caribbean."
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In 1988, he appeared in a trio of films: Little Nikita, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, and Running on Empty. Of the three, Running on Empty was the most critically successful. Phoenix played the son of 60s radicals (Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch) who went underground after blowing up a building, accidentally killing someone in the process. In the film,
his character is a musically gifted teenager who must decide between staying with his family on the run and leaving them to follow his own dreams. His girlfriend in the film was played by Martha Plimpton, and she and Phoenix became involved off-screen as well. Directed by Sydney Lumet, the film earned many accolades with critic Roger Ebert calling it “one of the best films of the year.” Phoenix received his first and only Academy Award nomination for his work on the film.
Phoenix reteamed with Harrison Ford for the 1989 box office hit Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. In the film, he played the famed adventurer in his youth. After this brief sojourn into the action genre, Phoenix tried his hand at comedy with I Love You to Death (1990). His character helps a scorned wife (Tracey Ullman) try to bump off her cheating husband (Kevin Kline) and even hires two drug-addled henchmen (William Hurt and Keanu Reeves) to assist in the task.
Tackling much more weighty material, Phoenix co-starred with Reeves in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho (1991). He played a narcoleptic male prostitute who wants to find his long-lost mother and develops a special friendship with a fellow hustler (Keanu Reeves). Phoenix earned strong reviews for his riveting performance in the film. That same year, he proved to be equally compelling and convincing as a Marine just about to go to Vietnam in Dogfight (1991) with Lili Taylor.
Phoenix took a supporting role in the comedic thriller Sneakers (1992) and proved that he could hold his own on screen with such established performers as Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, and David Strathairn. Acting, however, was just one part of Phoenix’s life. A strong supporter of animal rights, he became a vegetarian at the age of 8. “When I was old enough to realize all meat was killed, I saw it as an irrational way of using our power, to take a weaker thing and mutilate it,” Phoenix told The New York Times in 1989. He became a devout vegan, eschewing all dairy products because of how the animals were treated. An ardent environmentalist, Phoenix supported such organizations as Earth Save and Earth Trust.
Music was another one of Phoenix’s passions. With his sister Rain, he formed the band Aleka’s Attic. He wrote many songs for the group, which recorded a few tracks but never released an album. With The Thing Called Love (1993), Phoenix got a chance to combine acting with music, playing a singer wants to make it in Nashville. He even contributed one of his own songs to the soundtrack. The film also starred Samantha Mathis as his love interest, and the two started dating.
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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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