RIVER PHOENIX. Running on Empty. September 23, 1988 (negative)
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Oral History: River Phoenix on Saving the Planet

His name was inspired by the river of life in Siddartha by Herman Hesse, his middle name Jude by the Beatles song Hey, Jude. The family changed their last name to Phoenix, after the mythical bird that rises from its own ashes, symbolizing a new beginning.

River Phoenix died at the young age of 23. We remember some words of wisdom that he spoke to HFPA journalists in 1988 when he was only 18.

“Ever since I can remember I was called Rio, which is Spanish for river when we lived in South America, and now I go by River, but the family at home call me Rio most of the time. My sister, has a lot of strong ideas on social topics and political ideas as well, she loves to sing and she is very good on her feet, so far as dancing goes. Then there is Leaf, the name he was born with in (then changed to Joaquin). He is definitely the comedian in the group, he is very bright, witty, funny, and off-the-wall in his humor, he is very talented and ahead of his years. Then there is Liberty, she is very athletic and good at gymnastics, and Summer is a beautiful young lady and very precocious in her own way.”

“At the time my parents had their first spiritual awakening and the closest thing that they could find that was directly connected to God or the Universal Force was Nature. I mean, that’s the most evident creation on this planet that is of God. So, they wanted to have some real natural down-to-earth names for their children.”

“I didn’t live through that time, the ‘60s, but I see that people really miss the whole point, they are not capturing the essence of what was going on. It’s more about the superficial, obvious things, like people walking around with flowers in their hair, gathering on campus, shouting what they felt about the war that was going on. I hope that this time around it won’t be a war that fuels or inspires people to uprise as they did before and that it will not be as violent as it was then, if at all. It will be more like a mutual understanding of all people coming to some realization that we really abuse this planet, and we can only take it so far. At a certain point, everyone will have an understanding of what needs to be done, and we’ll all come together and organize an important change and go about that in a peaceful, co-operative way, where everyone works together because that’s the only way we can do it.”

“You can’t really avoid the obvious truths; we can’t have separation and people yelling back and forth. It has happened in the past­ that, when a catastrophe happens and when huge problems arise, it really shakes people up and it forces them to come together on one belief and one goal, and I really think that is going to happen, because it can’t go on the way it is now, with everything just dying away. I mean, our race would soon be extinct if we continue.”