Joaquin Phoenix and his family came together on Sept. 30 to honor the late River Phoenix. River, the teen icon who tragically died from a drug overdose on the streets of Los Angeles in 1993, was celebrated at PETA’s 35th Anniversary Event with the debut of the River Phoenix Humanitarian Award.
River Phoenix‘s heartbreaking death from drugs happened over 20 years ago, but the Stand By Me star is still alive in the hearts of his family. Joaquin Phoenix, 40, joined his sisters — Rain Phoenix, 42, Liberty Phoenix, 39, and Summer Phoenix, 36 — and his mother, Arlyn Phoenix, 70, at a PETA gala to honor River’s life with a special award named after him!
The Phoenix family was on hand for PETA’s 35th Anniversary Party in Hollywood on Sept. 30, reports the Daily Mail. The family spoke fondly about River’s dedication to animal rights while presenting the first ever River Phoenix Humanitarian award to filmmaker Shaun Monson. “[River] took personal responsibility for his beliefs by becoming vegan,” his mother, Arlyn, said, according to WENN. “He inspired not only our family, but the world.”
River captured the hearts of teens and movie fans in the 1980s, with roles in the blockbusters like Explorers and, most famously, Stand By Me. As he grew up, he graduated to mature roles, like that of a teen runaway in Running on Empty and as a gay hustler in My Own Private Idaho. He even was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his Running on Empty performance and was expected to become a huge movie star.
Sadly, that was not to be. River’s short life ended on Oct. 31, 1993. While partying in L.A., River overdosed on drugs and collapsed on the sidewalk in front of the famous Viper Room. Joaquin and their sister, Rain, were there with River and watched as paramedics tried to save his life. Unfortunately, they could not, and River was pronounced dead at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Before his tragic end, River was an outspoken activist for PETA and won their Humanitarian Award in 1992 for his fundraising efforts. River even had a song on the 1989 PETA benefit album, Tame Yourself. He was a lifelong vegan and his lifestyle reportedly inspired his brother, Joaquin, to give up eating meat or any animal byproducts.
Despite River’s light being snuffed out far too soon, his family could remember the joy he brought them while he was still alive while at the PETA event. They had nothing but love and happiness as they looked back on River’s life and his love for all living things.
Are you a fan of River Phoenix, HollywoodLifers? Which one of his movies is your favorite?
— Jason Brow