Mademoiselle, August 1993

Young Man River

by Rebecca Johnson.

River Phoenix gets the girl in the thing called love

A lot of people aren't sure what 22-year-old River Phoenix looks like these days. They remember him at 12 in Stand By Me. Or at 15 in The Mosquito Coast. "It's true," he says, "I have facial neutrality. I look like the UPS man." (I wish my UPS man looked like him.) Mostly, what people remember about River Phoenix is his name. "I'm so tired of being asked how I got that name," he complains. For the record, he got it because at the time he was conceived, his parents were living on the banks of the Colorado River in an abandoned milk truck. All of which makes you wonder about his sister, Rain, and brother, Leaf, both of whom are also actors. A radio deejay once told Phoenix he had the personality of a baby oak tree. But the radio deejay was wrong. Anyone who spent his childhood on the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, couldn't be dull. He's humble -" I'm a minor, stupid talent compared to my brother." And arrogant -"I'm a fucking genius when it comes to writing dialogue." Romantic -"I regret being born a white make; if I could have been born anything, I'd be a Native American." And pragmatic -"Being white has been good for my career." But he's never dull.

This month, the humble, arrogant, romantic-yet-pragmatic star appears with Dermot Mulroney and Samantha Mathis in the thing called love, a movie he says is about "musicians doing their thing in Nashville." It's a good movie for Phoenix, partly because he gets the girl, but also because it's about music, which is one of his passions. He sings all of his own songs in the movie, and even wrote two -"Bus Picture Window" and "Lone Star State of Mind".

When he's not acting or singing, he's proselytizing on behalf of the environment: "There's nothing more important that the earth, the sky and the water." Rave on, River.

1993 Mademoiselle.

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