Born in the sleepy town of Madras, Oregon, River was the eldest of five children. Along with his brother, Joaquin (christened Leaf), and his sisters Rain, Liberty and Summer, he travelled extensively as a child, before his parents finally settled in California in the late 1970s.
They were very much part of the hippy movement and his upbringing was far from conventional. His acting career began with various appearances in commercials and led to his first film, ‘Explorers’, in 1985.
However, it was River’s second film appearance that would launch his career. Rob Reiner’s tale of boyhood friends, ‘Stand by Me’, proved a huge box office success, and made River Phoenix a household name.
After playing the young Indiana, in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, River picked up an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor, for his role in ‘Running on Empty’, in 1988.
Later that year he went on to win the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for his role as a hustler, opposite Keanu Reeves, in ‘My Own Private Idaho’.
River's musical talents were also beginning to get recognised as he launched the band ‘Aleka’s Attic’ with his sister, Rain.
Shortly after filming ‘Silent Tongue’, River Phoenix was found dead outside L.A nightclub, ‘The Viper Room’. The 23-year-old star had died from a drug overdose.