Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023 |
Share this story
“Stand By Me” is based on the Stephen King short story “The Body.” It was the third film of director Rob Reiner (“A Few Good Men”) and was shot in the forests of Oregon in 1985. The film is the most celebrated piece of child ensemble acting to date. Yes, we have great child actors like Dakota Fanning. However, “Stand by Me” had four boys who were all ages 11 to 15 masterfully playing out scenes as if they were a jazz quartet (hitting very tough cues). The movie is about four boys who take a life-changing journey to find the body of a dead boy their age. The images are amazing, courtesy of cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth. Later he’d become an Emmy-winner for “The West Wing” (best camera work in TV history).
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the loss of River Phoenix. Phoenix died of a lethal dose of cocaine, heroin, speed, alcohol and valium in Hollywood, Calif., with his brother Joaquin Phoenix (“Walk the Line”) at his side, outside the Viper Room on the famed Sunset Strip. It was a crushing blow to Hollywood. By age 22 (River Phoenix was 23 when he died) he had worked with Sidney Poitier, Harrison Ford, Robert Redford, (famed film directors) Sidney Lumet, Steven Spielberg, Peter Weir, Gus Van Sant, Peter Bogdanovich, and was an Oscar nominee by age 18. There is no doubting he was the James Dean of my generation and if he was alive he’d be 40 years old. It is rumored River Phoenix was going to retire from the film business. He was a earth-rights activist, a vegan and did not enjoy people treating him like a celebrity. He was a humble soul who was in touch with reality and died as he was preparing to work on “Interview with the Vampire” (with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt).
Phoenix was said to be an “old soul.” In the movie “Stand By Me” he gives us the nuanced performance of a 30-year-old actor, and he was only 15. He has a genuine heart, mind and love that comes through in every scene. He is a true friend to the other boys, the kind of friend we discover in our darkest times or wake up and realize at age 30 how lucky we are. River had seemed to be someone who already had it figured out as an actor.
There are scenes in “Stand By Me” that an actor three times his age could not pull off. And he did these scenes without being fed his lines or having the editor shape his performance. I remember the day he died. I was only 14, but it seemed so odd to be losing an actor you loved who was 23. I was introduced (like almost everyone) to River Phoenix through “Stand By Me” when I was 10 years old. Since the movie is about young boys, I instantly related. I highly recommend all of his films, and for those who want to see his most risky performance go to Lihu‘e Public Library and watch “My Own Private Idaho.” Happy Halloween and rest in peace Mr. Phoenix!
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
By participating in online discussions you
acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful
discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments
are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines,
send us an email.