River Phoenix

River Phoenix, born River Jude Bottom (later changed to Phoenix) was born on August 23, 1970. He was a prolific actor and musician who was essential to the entertainment industry. His career started at the age of 10 when he began modeling for television commercials. However, his acting career started when he starred in “Explorers,” a science fiction adventure film, in 1985. He followed that with “Stand by Me”, a poignant coming-of-age film the following year. In 1988, he transitioned into further adult-oriented characters when he starred in “Running on Empty” in1988, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Supporting Actor.’ He also played Michael Waters in “My Own Private Idaho” in 1991. He garnered critical acclaim for the role, and he won ‘Best Actor’ at the National Society of Film Critics Awards 1991 Venice Film Festival, and the ‘Best Male Lead’ at the Independent Spirit Awards. He achieved so much in his acting career and we are extremely humbled to be celebrating him today.

Fast Facts

Full Name:

River Jude Phoenix


Rio, Riv

Birth date:

August 23, 1970

Death date:

October 31, 1993 (age 23)

Zodiac Sign:



5' 10"

Net Worth:

$5 million


River Jude Phoenix was a global entertainer. He was appreciated for his skilled acting and passionate music. He was born on August 23, 1970, in Madras, Oregon. He was born to John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Dunetz. His father worked as an exterior architect and was a lapsed Catholic who had ancestral roots in English, German, and French. His mother, on the other hand, was a secretary for an NBC broadcaster as well as a New Yorker whose Jewish parents had migrated from Russia and Hungary.

Phoenix was the oldest of his three siblings, Joaquin, Summer, and Rain. On September 13, 1969, his parents got married after meeting less than a year before while hitchhiking. When Phoenix was young, they relocated a lot. Together with his sister, they would sing on street corners for money to get food and other amenities to assist their parents. He never received any formal education even though he had an affinity for reading and writing.

During one of their street performances in Westwood, Los Angeles, Iris Burton, a talent agent, noticed them and was charmed by their singing. She decided to take them on and represent them. She got Phoenix on national commercials for big brands such as Ocean Spray, Mitsubishi, and Saks Fifth Avenue before he signed with Paramount Pictures as a child actor. Shortly after, he featured in “Real Kids” together with his sister as audience warm-up performers. In 1980, he became intentional about pursuing a career as an actor with his first television show known, “Fantasy”. In 1982, he was cast as the youngest brother among seven, Guthrie McFadden, in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” a CBS television series. In the middle of his audition, he did an Elvis Presley impersonation and this is what wowed the show producer. A year later in 1983, he featured in “Celebrity,” the television movie where he played young Jeffie Crawford. He was also featured in “Robert Kennedy and His Times,” as Robbert F. Kennedy Jr. and it didn’t take long before he was cast in “Surviving: A Family in Crisis.” He played Philip Brogan, which was a major role in the film. While he was still working on the movie, his then manager, Burton, talked to him about a potential role in the “Explorers.”

His acting career took off when he starred in “Explorers,” a science fiction adventure film, in 1985. It was his first major motion picture film. He followed that with “Stand By Me,” a coming-of-age film the following year as well as the CBS television movie, “Circle of Violence: A Family Drama,” which was about domestic elder abuse. In 1988, he transitioned into adult-oriented films like “Running on Empty” and “My Own Private Idaho.”

Phoenix starred in a number of successful movies including “The Mosquito Coast,” “Little Nikita,” “Dogfight,” “I Love You To Death,” “Sneakers,” and “The Thing Called Love,” to name a few. Tragically, Phoenix became disillusioned with Hollywood life and he turned to drugs as a way to escape. In the early hours of the morning on October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed outside Johnny Depp’s nightclub, the Viper Room. He was rushed to hospital but sadly, he passed away from an accidental drug overdose.

Career timeline

His Debut Television Appearance

He makes his debut appearance on a television show titled, “Fantasy.”


He features in “Explorers,” a science fiction adventure film

“Stand by Me”

He features in his first major role in a coming-of-age film known as, “Stand by Me.”

He Transitions into Adult-Oriented Films

He transitions into adult-oriented films starting with, “Running on Empty.”

“My Own Private Idaho”

He features in the movie, “My Own Private Idaho” and wins several awards for it.

Why We Love River Phoenix

  1. He loved music

    According to him, music was his first love and acting was just his job. He formed a band known as Aleka’s Attic with his sister Rain, and a few friends, and went on a number of tours. He was also among the original investors of the House of Blues that Dan Aykroyd of the Blue Brothers owned.

  2. He was dedicated

    He had an extreme dedication to his work. He always mastered his characters and would usually immerse himself in them. He had an almost antagonistic earnestness that brought his characters to life. This was what set him apart from other actors of his generation, and what drove his success in his career at a young age.

  3. He loved animals

    He had made a pact with his siblings not to consume any animal product, including leather. He took advantage of his platform to fight for the rights of animals. He tried to demystify the notion that without animal products, we could not be healthy and our diet would not be balanced. He was also PETA’s spokesman.

5 Surprising Facts

  1. He was a tap dancer

    He knew how to tap dance at a very young age.

  2. He was named after a novel

    He was named after a river in a spiritual novel titled, “Siddhartha.”

  3. He won the Guinness World Record

    He won the Guinness World Record with his brother for being the first brothers together to receive Oscar nominations for ‘Best Actor.’

  4. He was vegan

    He became a staunch vegan at the age of seven, together with his siblings.

  5. “Dark Blood” was released after his death

    His final film, “Dark Blood,” which he was working on when he passed away, was released 20 years after the fact.

River Phoenix FAQs

Was River Phoenix a smoker?

Did Phoenix regularly smoke cigarettes? Yes, he was a smoker.

Was River Phoenix shy?

Phoenix accepted his rising star reluctantly. He was happy that he could help his family by bringing home a paycheck. Atypical of the existing Hollywood fete set, Phoenix was shy, somewhat reclusive, and had disdain for the spotlight.

What happened at the Viper Room?

The Viper Room rose to Hollywood infamy after Phoenix tragically overdosed there on Halloween morning in 1993, and his brother’s harrowing 911 call was broadcast on news channels around the world. Since then, the club, famously owned by Johnny Depp, has been known as a hotbed for unsavory activity.

River Phoenix’s birthday dates

2024August 23Friday
2025August 23Saturday
2026August 23Sunday
2027August 23Monday
2028August 23Wednesday

Holidays Straight to Your Inbox

Every day is a holiday!
Receive fresh holidays directly to your inbox.