12 Surprising Truths Revealed About River Phoenix

1. Phoenix made a transition into more adult-oriented roles with Running on Empty , playing a gay hustler in search of his estranged mother.

2. For his performance in the latter, Phoenix garnered enormous praise and won a Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, along with Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics.

3. To this date, he and brother Joaquin Phoenix hold the distinction of being the first and only brothers to be nominated for acting Academy Awards.

4. On October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed and died of drug-induced heart failure on the sidewalk outside the West Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room at the age of 23. At the time of his death, Phoenix had been in the middle of filming Dark Blood .

5. Phoenix was raised in Micanopy, Florida, a small suburb of Gainesville.

6. They received no financial support and lived in poverty, with Phoenix stating they lived in a “desperate situation.”

7. Phoenix often played guitar while he and his sister sang on street corners for money and food to support their ever-growing family.

8. Closely after their return to the United States, the family officially changed their name to Phoenix, after the mythical bird that rises from its own ashes, symbolizing a new beginning. Phoenix never attended formal school.

9. Screenwriter Naomi Foner later commented, “He was totally, totally without education.

10. I mean, he could read and write, and he had an appetite for it, but he had no deep roots into any kind of sense of history or literature.”

11. In 1973, the family joined a controversial Christian new religious movement called the Children of God as missionaries. The family had settled in Caracas, Venezuela, where the Children of God had stationed them to work as missionaries and fruit gatherers.

12. Back in the United States, Arlyn began working as a secretary for an NBC broadcaster and John as an exteriors architect.

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