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Glimpse into Life and Tragic Death at 23 of 'Stand by Me' Actor River Phoenix

Rebelander Basilan
Jan 12, 2020
06:00 A.M.
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The death of the phenomenally talented River Phoenix at the age of 23 sent shock waves around the world in 1993.


The actor’s girlfriend, Samantha Mathis, has finally spoken up about his death, as reported by The Guardian. Best known for his performance in the 1986 film “Stand By Me,” Phoenix died on the night of October 30th, 1993.

Less than an hour before Phoenix’s death, he, Mathis and his sibling Leaf (now known as Joaquin) and Rain, entered the Viper Room, a Los Angeles club owned by actor Johnny Depp.

River Phoenix during Los Angeles, California, photo portrait session in 1988. | Photo: Getty Images



Mathis didn’t expect that they would be staying in the club, as she thought they were only dropping off Phoenix’s younger brother and sister. Mathis recalled:

“When we arrived he said to me, ‘Oh, there are some people playing music tonight in the club who want me to play with them. That’s okay, right?’”

Mathis revealed that she knew Phoenix was high that night, but it was in the Viper Room where he got the heroin that killed him. She said she had suspicions about what was happening, but she didn’t see anything.

River Phoenix and Samantha Mathis film for the movie "A Thing Called Love" in 1993 in Los Angeles, California. | Photo: Getty Images



Moments later, Phoenix had a scuffle with another man and the two of them were pushed out of the club’s side door by a bouncer.

Mathis followed them to the sidewalk and they saw Phoenix drop to the pavement and go into convulsions.

Despite a tough childhood, Phoenix went on to become a successful actor. He earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film “Running on Empty.”

Outdoor portrait of River Phoenix in 1991. | Photo: Getty Images



By the time the paramedics arrived, Phoenix had already flatlined. He was declared dead at the hospital. His cause of death was an overdose of cocaine and heroin.

Phoenix had an eccentric childhood back in the 1980s. When he was only three, his parents, who were hippies, took the family to Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico as members of the Christian cult, Children of God.

Later in life, Phoenix revealed that he was sexually abused when he was four years old. As a young boy, he was also sent out to busk to raise money for food.


Despite a tough childhood, Phoenix went on to become a successful actor. He earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film “Running on Empty,” as reported by Vanity Fair.

In the movie, Phoenix played a piano prodigy who was the son of the 1960s radicals who were in hiding from the federal government. But it was a role in “Stand By Me” that launched the actor into stardom.


Phoenix struck a special friendship with fellow actor Keanu Reeves, with whom he co-starred in the movie, “My Own Private Idaho.”

They first met on the set of "I Love You to Death," a year before they filmed the Idaho story. It was Reeves who persuaded Phoenix to star alongside him in “My Own Private Idaho.”