River Phoenix Biography

Biography by Published on Updated on 14 Nov, 2017
Facts of River Phoenix
Date of Birth: 1970 , August-23
Age: 51 years old
Birth Nation: United States of America
Height: 5 Feet 10 Inch
Name River Phoenix
Father Arlyn Dunetz
Mother John Lee Bottom
Nationality American
Birth Place/City Madras
Religion Christain
Ethnicity white
Profession Actor,
Net Worth $5 million.
Awards National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Movies Dark Blood
Siblings Joaquin Phoenix, Summer Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, Liberty Phoenix, Jodean Bottom
Died 1993, West Hollywood
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River Phoenix was an American actor, musician, as well as an activist who starred in Stand by Me & earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in Running on Empty. He also played young Indiana Jones in the 1989 blockbuster Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade. He tragically died of a drug overdose at the young age of 23. 

Phoenix had won several awards in his career. Some of them were ‘Young Artist Award’ for his role in the movie ‘Explorers’ & an ‘Independent Spirit Award’ for ‘Best Male Lead’ for his appearance in ‘My Own Private Idaho.'

Early life and education

River Phoenix was born as River Jude Phoenix on 23rd August 1970 in Madras, Oregon, in the United States. He belongs to white ethnicity & holds an American nationality.

Phoenix was the eldest child of his parents, Arlyn Dunetz & John Lee Bottom. He was raised with his siblings, Liberty Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Rain Phoenix and Summer Phoenix in Micanopy, a small town in the state of Florida.

The family struggled financially, & sometimes Phoenix along with his sister used to sing for money on the streets. Because of their poverty, he never had formal schooling.  

The family soon joined a controversial Christian movement named ‘Children of God’, which stationed them as missionaries in Caracas, Venezuela. But, a few years later, the family developed an intense dislike for the organization due to their unethical activities.


River Phoenix initially began appearing in commercials for corporations including Mitsubishi, Ocean Spray & Saks Fifth Avenue. His first significant work on television was his role in the television show ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.' Though it ran only for a single season, it earned a nomination for the Emmy Award.

After playing roles in some shows, as well as in TV movies such as ‘Celebrity’ & ‘Surviving: A Family in Crisis,' he made his movie debut with an American sci-fi movie, ‘Explorers’ in 1985. The movie was a commercial failure. But, it was loved by the critics.

The following year, Phoenix played the lead role in the drama movie ‘Stand by Me’ which was a commercial hit. It was also nominated for various significant awards including an Oscar.

Phoenix starred in several other movies such as ‘The Mosquito Coast,' ‘A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon’ and ‘Running on Empty.' His performance in ‘Running on Empty’ received him a nomination for an Oscar in early 1989.

In 1989, Phoenix appeared in the hit movie ‘Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.' The film, was directed by renowned movie director Steven Spielberg and was a huge commercial success & also won an Oscar.

In 1991, Phoenix played the leading role in the movie ‘Dogfight.' He also played the lead role in the adventure movie ‘My Own Private Idaho’ that won him multiple awards.

The last movies in his career were ‘That Thing Called Love’ (1993) & ‘Silent Tongue’ (1993). At the time of his death, Phoenix was working on the movie ‘Dark Blood’ which was directed by George Sluizer. The movie was eventually released in 2012, nearly 20 years after his untimely death.

Personal life

River Phoenix had been romantically involved with various women. He had dated Samantha Mantis, Suzanne Solgot, & Martha Plimpton at different time intervals of his life.

A lifelong vegan, Phoenix is remembered for his contribution to animal rights & environmental issues. He was an active spokesperson for PETA, & in 1992, he also won their Humanitarian award for his fund-raising efforts.

Besides that, Phoenix provided financial aid to various environmental organizations including, Earth Save & Earth Trust. He also bought 800 acres of endangered rainforest in Costa Rica.

Death and Legacy

River Phoenix suffered a drug overdose on the morning of 31st October 1993 & collapsed. It was due to a cocktail of drugs he had taken the previous evening.

Phoenix’s siblings called the paramedics who immediately arrived on the scene & transported Phoenix to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, where he was declared dead.

Phoenix’s sad and untimely death was mourned by his friends, family, and his fans as well. After the memorial service, his ashes were scattered at family’s Florida ranch.

Despite his untimely death at the young age of twenty-three, Phoenix is known as one of the most successful actors of the twentieth century. He also proved to be an inspiration for various stars, such as Leonardo DiCaprio & Dylan O’Brien.

Net worth

Throughout his career as an actor, Phoenix has appeared on 24 movies & TV projects which include Stand By Me, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Explorers, and My Own Private Idaho. His appearance in Running on Empty earned him an Academy Award nomination for the Best Supporting Actor. He had a net worth of $5 million.