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26th September 2013

river phoenix

As people around the world get ready to mark the 20th anniversary of River Phoenix's death on 31st October, information about that night and its events, previously only known amongst those who were there, is being shared more publicly.

River's death, aged only 23, sent a massive shockwave across Hollywood and the music industry as he was perceived to be a clean cut, sober, vegan who was capable of living his life in a way that did not endanger his or anyone else's life.

He died on the pavement outside Johnny Depp's nightclub, The Viper Rooms, after attending the club with friends to hear Depp's band, P, who were playing that night.

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River was known to be a pretty decent guitarist, having formed his own band Aleka's Attic some years earlier, so he had planned on joining Depp on stage. It was known at the time that he saw himself more as a musician than an actor.

Shortly after arriving at the club he told his friend Bob Forrest (previously front man of Helonious Monster) that he felt unwell, River then collapsed and was carried outside by his brother Joaquin who also called 911.

Bob went on to say that River had been hanging out with some of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers in the days preceding his death and their constant use of crack cocaine followed by heroin was a well known routine. Bob also stated that it was Flea from RHCP who accompanied River in the ambulance to the ER at Cedar-Sinai Hospital.

River was in the middle of filming Dark Blood, directed by George Sluzier and they had just finished location shooting in Utah. The movie was abandoned after River died but now, due to digital magic Sluzier has managed to finish all the scenes and the final result was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival this spring.

Jonathon Pryce, the skilled character actor (think Colonel Peron in Evita), was also part of Dark Blood and was profoundly shocked by River's death and has since gone on to take on the role of patron at the charity Friendship Works.

The charity provides support through volunteers who become mentors to children who are growing up with significant challenges which may overwhelm and subsume them otherwise. These issues include dealing with addictions amongst other challenges.

Pryce went on to say that River was "absolutely delightful" but he changed when they finished the location shoot and returned to LA. He became less focussed and two days later he was dead.


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