Just hours before it was announced that Joaquin Phoenix had scored an Oscar nomination for his performance in Joker, the 45-year-old actor talked with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. During the segment, Phoenix’s family joined him for the in-depth interview, and they opened up for the first time in more than 25 years about how the death of River Phoenix affected them.
Joaquin and the rest of his family have always been reluctant when it came to talking about River’s death. Joaquin’s older brother was a huge star in the late 1980s and early 1990s thanks to his roles in films like Stand By Me. Sadly, in 1993 River died at the age of 23 from a drug overdose outside of The Viper Room in West Hollywood.
Joaquin was 19 at the time, and he was with River on the night that he died. He told Cooper that the media coverage of his brother’s death “impeded on the mourning process.”
“We were so removed from the entertainment world. We didn’t watch entertainment shows. We didn’t have the entertainment magazines in our house,” explained Phoenix. “You know, River was a really substantial actor and movie star and we didn’t really know it.”
He said that during that time when he was at his most vulnerable, helicopters were flying over and people were trying to sneak onto their property. For Joaquin, that made it incredibly difficult to grieve the loss of his brother.
Even though it’s been 27 years since River passed away, his family still feels his presence in their lives. They also admitted that the grieving process can still happen “out of nowhere.” Joaquin’s mother Heart said that she still finds herself feeling the grief sometimes, and she will “just welcome it.”
Joaquin Phoenix wearing River's shirt on 60 Minutes is my 2020 highlight thus far ❤ pic.twitter.com/f68YtGOYAg
— Manda🥀 (@LovesSubliminal) January 10, 2020
Joaquin added that in every movie he has made, there has been a connection to River in some way. He says that he will always feel his brother’s presence and guidance in his life in numerous ways.
Joaquin Phoenix also revealed that it was River who introduced him to movies and the world of acting. He said that when River showed him Raging Bull, it “awakened” something in him. Phoenix said he noticed wonderful moments and details from Robert De Niro’s performance, and in some ways he is always looking for those beautiful details.
“What are the possibilities? What more can we say? Our experience, the human experience, in this moment,” said Phoenix.
The 92nd annual Academy Awards will be broadcast live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on Sunday, February 9th on ABC.