A few favorite/interesting lines:
Brad Pitt: “I think he was the best. Is. Was. Is the best of the young guys. I’m not just saying that now—I said that before he died. He had something I don’t understand.”
Ethan Hawke: “River was one of those people that had that strange magic glow around them; he could drive you crazy, or make you fall in love with him, sometimes in the same minute.”
"Dermot Mulroney thought River’s lazy right eye expressed a fundamental dichotomy in his spirit: ‘His eyes made him the focus of energy in every scene, the centrifugal force so strong you didn’t even try to duel him for control. In a close-up, from one side he was the guy next door, and from the other he was absolutely insane.’"
Frank Meyer: “Having met some teen heartthrobs, I assumed that all of them were kind of douchey. [River] wasn’t like those other guys at all. He was a normal dude. Very charming. Quiet. Kind of in his own world…”
"He was undereducated and overintelligent."
Brendan Fraser: “‘I anticipated River having a lot of hostility. I think I wanted him to be standoffish and cold—but he was really gentle and sweet.’ Fraser had been telling himself that Hollywood actors were phony sellouts, but after meeting River, he packed up and drove south, to the film career that awaited him in Los Angeles.”
"[River’s parents] took turns reading books out loud, including Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha…about a young man’s quest for enlightenment…until he discovers wisdom by working as a ferryman. ‘The river has taught me to listen…that it is good to strive downwards, to sink, to seek the depths.’ River was intended as a tribute to a cleansing force of nature, flowing through all existence.”
"The Children of God believed the Bible approved of adultery and incest [and] encouraged children to experiment sexually…Berg declared that God wouldn’t have made children capable of enjoying sex if he hadn’t expected them to engage in it…[River] was sexually active between the ages of four and ten…somebody asked him if he had had a happy childhood. ‘Happy?’ he replied, as if the idea had never occurred to him. ‘Well, it was interesting.’ The human spirit is a mysterious thing: traumas that flatten some people bounce off of others.
“River was straightforward: ‘I’m going to be famous. Definitely. Rich and famous.’ ‘Why? What’s so cool about fame?’ Hawke didn’t expect River’s answer: ‘I’m doing it for my family.’‘I really saw the heavy trip his family laid on him…he was the man of the house at age fourteen.”
"[River’s parents] strived to speak with their children as if they were peers. It was never ‘We know better because we’re the parents’. It was more like ‘This is the first time we’ve ever done this, too. What do you think?’ And the children were so wise. If we made a mistake, we made it together."
“‘Kids never got along with me,’ River said. The experiences that had made his life extraordinary had also made it impossible to find common ground with regular teenagers.”
Similar to the reason I encourage fastidious recycling. —> River: “Vegetarianism is a link to perfection and peace. But it’s a small link. There are lots of other issues: apartheid, vivisection, political prisoners, the arms race…the point is, What can we do now? [Vegetarianism] is an individual decision and it’s something you have control over. How many things do we really have control over?”
"River discovered that he could immerse himself in a role so deeply that it would temporarily blot out his own personality and memories. He quickly decided that this was an excellent form of escapism. ‘It just feels so good,’ he said. ‘It has nothing to do with the idea of movies, it’s just getting lost. Having an excuse to get that far out of your head…’"
"…a gang of racist skinheads tried to pick a fight with him. River smiled sweetly at his tormentors and told them ‘If you want to kick my ass, go ahead. Just explain to me why you’re doing it.’ After a confused pause, one of the skinheads said ‘Ah, you wouldn’t be worth it.’ ‘We’re all worth it, man,’ River said with a beatific smile. ‘We’re all worth millions of planets and stars and galaxies and universes.’"
ATX, we missed out. “John Phoenix wanted his family to quit Hollywood…they looked for a warm-weather American college town with a thriving music scene. They considered Austin, Texas, but settled on Gainesville, Florida…”
River’s rambling voicemail to William Richert: “Who’s to say he or she is the one, for I to know where it has begun? Where am I coming from? Who cares? And did you know that? There is? And wait. Not. No. Sure. But maybe. That doesn’t matter. All those words. All those broken phrases. They don’t mean anything. But where was the point? You have missed the point. But don’t take it upon yourself. Don’t carry that weight. It’s not your fault…I would say that it’s safe to guess that people simply don’t understand.”
"River felt so deeply a connection to [Rimbaud] that he started carrying around a copy of Time of the Assassins. ‘Conditioned to ecstasy, the poet is like a gorgeous unknown bird mired in the ashes of thought. If he succeeds in freeing himself, it is to make a sacrificial flight to the sun. His dreams of a regenerate world are but the reverberations of his own fevered pulse beats. He imagines the world will follow him, but in the blue he finds himself alone.’"
"River’s preparations [for My Own Private Idaho] included dabbling with queer sex. ‘I think maybe he had feelings that way’ Parker said ‘Everybody has a level of curiosity. River struck me as real curious. Maybe not because he was gay but because he wanted to understand.’”
"Twenty years after My Own Private Idaho, many gay actors have come out of the closet…Movies and TV shows are rife with homosexual characters; what remains taboo is the depiction of same-sex physical affection, even relatively chaste kisses. River shattered this unofficial prohibition in the opening minutes of My Own Private Idaho; when we first see Mike, he is in a hotel getting a blow job from a john.”
"The opening credits of Sneakers has the names of some of the film’s major players as anagrams before they get unscrambled. Not all got their names shuffled—if they had, the world might have discovered that one anagram for ‘RIVER PHOENIX’ is ‘VIPER ROOM X.’”
"Only ten miles away from the Viper Room, just three weeks before River Phoenix died….the Church of Scientology was having a party…the IRS had officially classified Scientology as a religion, not a commercial enterprise…This ruling made all the difference: if a language is a dialect with an army, as philologists say, then a religion is a cult with a tax exemption."
"After a lifetime of providing for his family and being anointed as the savior of the planet, River had given himself an extended vacation from responsibility—a delayed childhood, but with adult vices."
"In the drink was a dissolved speedball: a mixture of cocaine and heroin. The heroin circulating in L.A. that fall included a particularly potent variety of Persian Brown. River immediately felt unwell. ‘What did you give me? What the fuck is in it?’ he shouted…‘He’s fine, he fine’ Joaquin said…Inside the Viper Room, completely unaware of what was happening outside its walls, P played a country-flavored song called ‘Michael Stipe,’ about celebrity and feeling out of place at glitzy parties in the Hollywood Hills. Spookily, it mentioned River by name: ‘I finally talked to Michael Stipe/But I didn’t get to see his car/Him and River Phoenix/Were leaving on the road tomorrow."
"When River died, it was generally assumed that he would become the ‘vegan James Dean’—a star even better remembered in death than in life…Instead, he faded in people’s memories. Partially, this is because of the idiosyncrasies of River’s filmography; of his four great films, two (Dogfight, Running on Empty) are basically forgotten, while My Own Private Idaho is well-regarded but rarely seen (there’s no easy way to edit it down to make it palatable on basic cable). Stand by Me has become an enduring classic, but River was so young in the movie, it can be hard to connect his performance to the man he became. The other reason River didn’t become more iconic in death: on April 5, 1994, only five months after River died, Kurt Cobain shot himself in the head and become the symbol of snuffed potential.”
"Leonardo DiCaprio played so many parts that River originally intended to do, it’s hard not to wonder which roles River might have beaten him out for. Would River have starred in Titanic, and found himself transformed into a global superstar?"
"The perspicacious Martha Plimpton observed, ‘He’s already being made into a martyr,’ she complained. ‘He’s become a metaphor for a fallen angel, a messiah. He was just a boy, a very good-hearted boy who was very fucked up and had no idea how to implement his good intentions. I don’t want to be comforted by his death. I think its right that I’m angry about it, angry about the people who helped him stay sick, and angry at River.’"
“‘He had contrasts. It’s not so simple as people think—a ‘nice boy.’ He was as complex as we all are…”
“‘I don’t think anybody’s necessarily ready for death,’ Depp reflected. ‘You can only hope that when it approaches, you feel like you’ve said what you wanted to say. Nobody wants to go out in mid-sentence.”
"‘Love conquers all,’ River said once. ‘Even the assholes who don’t want it.’”
And a few humorous snippets on Johnny Depp:
“Johnny Depp, determined to be a rock star, quit high school…never considered being lead singer: ironically, he didn’t want to be the guy that everybody looked at. [He] picked up a U-Haul trailer and moved to Hollywood, intent on getting a record deal. Motivated by desire to pay rent and buy groceries, Depp auditioned for A Nightmare on Elm Street. ‘I never wanted to be an actor, It was a good way to make easy money, it seemed. I didn’t care what the movies were—-if you’re going to pay me, fine. So I just kept going forward.”
"While the Viper Room would attract rock stars looking for an intimate place to play, it rarely booked musicians from the east side of town. When Beck played a solo on an electric leaf blower, Depp personally pulled the plug on him."
“Depp was still under contract to 21 Jump street, although he chafed at the series and its authoritarian premise. Sitting in the comfort of his first-class cabin flying back to Vancouver, he was unhappy to be leaving Ryder, unhappy to be taping more episodes of ‘that show’ and wanted to turn everything upside down. He had a thought in his head he couldn’t get rid of, something he felt he needed to say. ‘I fuck animals!’ he announced to his fellow first-class passengers. Heads jerked in his direction. The travelers took in the source of provocation and then coolly swiveled forward again, trying to ignore him. Except for the man at Depp’s elbow, an accountant. He considered Depp, and then broke the silence with a question. ‘What kind?’”