Final River Phoenix Film Shouldn't Have Been His Last

river phoenixI have to admit, it's been awhile since I thought about River Phoenix. So when I heard the news of the upcoming release of his final, unfinished film, Dark Blood, I was surprised by how sad I felt. Not about the movie coming out -- I'm thrilled the footage of his last efforts will finally be seen and appreciated -- but at the memory of his passing. Looking at his image, I'm reminded all over again of the tragic, tragic waste that was his sudden death.

Had River Phoenix lived past the age of 23, there's no doubt in my mind he would be considered the best actor of his generation. In fact, you know what? He might have ended up in the White House.

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The first thing most of us remember about River Phoenix, myself included, is his incredible talent (in both acting and music). His Oscar-nominated performance in Running on Empty; his groundbreaking work in My Own Private Idaho (still, without question, one of my favorite movies of all time).

But he was also a dedicated activist, light years ahead of the general population in terms of environmental awareness. Back before recycling was routine or hybrids were a gleam in the eye of car manufacturers, Phoenix bought 800 acres of endangered rain forest in Costa Rica. He donated huge amounts of cash to countless environmental and humanitarian organizations. PETA gave him their humanitarian award in 1992 for his fund-raising efforts.

He saw celebrity as a way to promote his politics, which makes me think the current administration might be in very different shape if he were still around. The views he held and causes he fought for, thought to be progressive during his life, have proven to be the most crucial topics on the global table today.

Of course it's all mere speculation at this point, but one thing is for sure: River Phoenix was a tremendous loss.


Image via Alan Light/Flickr

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