The late River Phoenix would have turned 50 today, and fans far and wide are taking the occasion to remember the legendary actor and musician. Though he was only 23 at the time of his death, Phoenix had accomplished a lot in his short life. The brother of Rain, Joaquin, Liberty, and Summer Phoenix, River had earned great critical acclaim as a young actor, earning Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards by the time he was 18.
Beginning his acting career at the age of 10, one of River's earliest movie roles included playing a boy with dyslexia in an ABC Afterschool Special with his brother Joaquin also appearing in a small role. He'd soon after star in Joe Dante's Explorers alongside Ethan Hawke and would become a household name when he was given a significant role in the iconic 1985 movie Stand by Me. He would go on to portray the young version of Indiana Jones in the Steven Spielberg sequel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Phoenix appeared in the Sidney Lumet drama Running on Empty in 1988, providing one of his most critically lauded performances. In the movie, which also starred Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, and Martha Plimpton, Phoenix portrayed Danny Pope, a teenage boy who's been spending his life on the run with his fugitive parents. The role would earn him Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. He is also acclaimed for his role in Gus Van Sant's 1991 movie My Own Private Idaho, which earned him Best Actor honors at the Venice Film Festival, the National Society of Critics, and the Independent Spirit Awards.
As talented as he was as an actor, Phoenix was very passionate about his music. With his sister Rain as a part of the lineup, he formed the band Aleka's Attic at the height of his fame in 1987. For what would have been River's 50th birthday, Rain is also sharing two previously unreleased songs recorded by the group through her LaunchLeft label. The two-song single, called "Alone U Elope," also features Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass and Dermot Mulroney on cello. Last year, Rain had also debuted a music video directed by Gus Van Sant to honor her late brother.
Sadly, River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993, leaving this world far too soon at the age of 23. Still, his accomplishments have ensured that he will forever be remembered by his fans as well as his friends and family. On Twitter, one fan puts it very well with a post honoring the late actor and musician. "Happy 50th birthday, River Phoenix!" the tweet reads. "Thank you for your movies, music, talent, kindness, activism and authenticity. You had the courage to stand up for your beliefs when no one was doing it. Thank you for being one of my biggest inspirations, you're always remembered." Many other fans echo these thoughts, making it clear that the legacy of River Phoenix is just as strong as ever so many years later. Happy heavenly birthday, River! You can check out some of the fan tributes to Phoenix below.