Born River Bottom in 1970 to hippy parents, actor River Phoenix was a teen idol who starred in 24 films before his death.
When he was three years old, his family joined a religious organisation. After leaving the sect, his family chose a new surname to symbolise rebirth, and the newly-named River Phoenix went on to become a star.
The family was not wealthy and River and his siblings were spotted busking for extra cash by a talent scout. Work as a child actor followed in ads, T.V., and films.
His breakthrough movie role was as Chris in Stand By Me (1986), adapted from the Stephen King novel. It remains a classic coming-of-age film. Phoenix was rising.
At only 19, he was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Running on Empty (1988) and won many more awards and nominations. Alongside a young Keanu Reeves, he was making a name for himself as a natural, and leading roles beckoned.
He was also a humanitarian and environmental activist. “I would never, never do anything unless I believed in it,” he said.
In 1993, he collapsed and died outside a club in Hollywood from a drug overdose. His tragic end at age 23 prompted many tributes and song lyrics that referenced him. Like James Dean before him, River Phoenix was a young star who was taken too soon.