Prot-a-gonist* In simplicity there is truth | River Phoenix, 1970-1993

River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho Gus Van Sant 1991

River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

“It still strikes me as strange that anyone could have any moral objection to someone else’s sexuality. It’s like telling someone else how to clean their house.”

“We are taught to consume. And that’s what we do. But if we realized that there really is no reason to consume, that it’s just a mind set, that it’s just an addiction, then we wouldn’t be out there stepping on people’s hands climbing the corporate ladder of success.”

“When I was old enough to realize all meat was killed, I saw it as an irrational way of using our power, to take a weaker thing and mutilate it. It was like the way bullies would take control of younger kids in the schoolyard.”

“I wouldn’t eat a hamburger for 40,000 dollars.”

River Phoenix in Central Park 1990
River Phoenix in Central Park, 1990

“Vegetarianism is a link to perfection and peace.”

“Animals are not our playthings. We are on this earth to protect them. It’s our duty.”

“I can’t on my own change the regime in South Africa or teach the Palestinians to learn to live with the Israelies, but I can start with me.”

River Phoenix by Lance Staedler 1987

River Phoenix by Lance Staedler, 1987

“I think it’s important for students to take responsibility for their education. We accept too much of what we’re taught without question.“ (Sassy Magazine, October 1989)

“Love conquers all. Even the assholes that don’t want it.”

The Phoenix Family next to the RV they travel Los Angeles California 1986

The Phoenix Family next to the RV they travel, Los Angeles, California, 1986

“I project a definite innocence. A lot of that is just the way I grew up.”

“People wonder if I’ll always be a part of this family and the answer is yes. My family has a lot of good energy going in one direction and because of it, we get a lot of things done. That’s why I’ll always spend a lot of time at Camp Phoenix.”

“We all have our distinct things. Leaf [brother Joaquin Phoenix] was the family clown–very witty, very smart. Mom had to work a lot, so Rainbow [sister Rain Phoenix] was the mother and the older sister and trendsetter. Liberty [sister Liberty Phoenix] was always the most physical, like an acrobat, very nimble and strong, a really beautiful girl. And Summer [sister Summer Phoenix] was the youngest, the baby of the family, with big brown eyes and blonde hair, more American-looking.”

“I would get songs sung to me, like ‘Old Man River, ‘or kids would call me Mississippi and things like that. At the time, I wished I had a name that blended in more with my surroundings. Now, though, I’ve really learned to love it. From fifteen, I really liked it. It felt appropriate. Before that, I don’t think it quite fitted me. I had to grow into it .”

“We were constantly moving to different countries and adjusting to new things. It was such a free feeling. I’m glad I didn’t have a traditional upbringing.”

“When I was in first grade, everyone made fun of my name, of course. I think it’s kind of a big name to hold up when you’re nine years old. It seemed goofy. I used to tell people I wanted to change the world and they used to think, ‘This kid’s really weird’. “

“I want kids, a family of my own. I’d like to give them the first eight years of their lives in the country. Then I’d want them educated, which I wasn’t formally, although I had a tutor once when I was twelve. At times I miss a formal education, but at others I thank God for everything else I have now. What I have got from my childhood aren’t toys, but memories. And happy memories are better than any toy.

River Phoenix photographed by Bruce Weber 1990

River Phoenix by Bruce Weber, 1990

Mark Contratto River Phoenix Paper Magazine 1990

Mark Contratto, River Phoenix, Paper Magazine, 1990

“It really upsets me, and I’m basically upset at myself for being so naive and gullible as I have been in the past, as far as being intimidated by the stylists with the wardrobe, the hair-do’s, the poses, the this and that and all that stuff – that isn’t me. What it does is, it makes you an image. They plaster you on all these magazines and sensationalize, and they’re all very nice and sweet and goody-goody, but still – It’s just false as far as, you know, the image that’s portrayed….. It’s not me.”

running on empty 1988 dir. sidney lumet 1

Running on Empty, 1988 | dir. Sidney Lumet

“I’d like to play every type of character, but only once. I like to expierence things.”

“I would never, never do anything unless I believed in it.”

“Acting is like a Halloween mask that you put on.”

“I have a lot of chameleon qualities, I get very absorbed in my surroundings.”

” I have twenty personalities on top of the ten I already have. So now I have thirty people in my head!”

Stand By Me 1986 dir. Rob Reiner
River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, and Jerry O’Connell in Stand By Me, 1986 / dir. Rob Reiner

“In Stand by Me (1986), I realized that what I was creating was going to live on far longer than anything of me as a person. The characters are more powerful than the person that creates them.”

“I did my best work in The Mosquito Coast. I know it wasn’t such a big hit, but for me it was more meaningful than anything else I’d ever done.”

“It’s a great feeling to think that I can be a friend to so many people through my movies.”

“In simplicity there is truth.”

River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho Gus Van Sant 1991 1

River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

“Everything is ironic to me. There are moments I find hysterical, but I’m probably the only one who would find that, except for a few people.”

“I try to lie as much as I can when I’m interviewed. It’s reverse psychology. I figure if you lie, they’ll print the truth.”

I Love You to Death 1990

I Love You to Death (1990) | dir. Lawrence Kasdan

“I sometimes lie, especially about personal things, because what does it matter? I am a kind of minute commodity, my name is no longer my own.”

“I don’t want to die in a car accident. When I die it’ll be a glorious day. It’ll probably be a waterfall.”

River Phoenix in 1986

River Phoenix in 1986 (16 years)

“I’ve been wanting to go into music ever since I can remember. I mean even before I became an actor. I just thought it would be a tough field to break into, so I became an actor instead.”

“Music is a whole oasis in my head. The creation process is so personal and fulfilling.”

“It’s so much a part of me. I like jazz, folk music, Bob Dylan. Older Bowie and old Roxy Music to fall asleep to. I like old Steely Dan music and some Pink Floyd. Old Led Zeppelin, too. The Beatles are my Bible; that goes without saying. And I like classical music.” (Vegetarian Times, ‘88)

Aleka’s Attic were an alternative folk/rock band from Gainesville, Florida, formed by River Phoenix and Josh Greenbaum in April 1987. The band’s name comes from the fictional Aleka, a poet-philosopher who gathered friends in his attic to discuss his ideas. When Aleka dies, his friends form a band to share his beliefs with others through music.

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