Joaquin Phoenix reflects on brother River’s death: Media ‘impeded on the mourning process’

Joaquin Phoenix is revealing how intrusive he found the media to be following the death of his brother, River, in 1993. The “Stand By Me” star suffered a drug overdose at 23. 

Phoenix, 45, appeared on “60 Minutes” Sunday. When his brother collapsed outside of The Viper Room in West Hollywood, Joaquin was 19. Phoenix told correspondent Anderson Cooper that he and his family were unaware of River’s fame as they “were so removed from kind of the entertainment world,” not consuming entertainment shows or magazines.

“River was a really substantial actor and movie star, and we didn’t really know it,” he said. “So during that time in which you’re most vulnerable, there are helicopters flying over. There are people that are trying to sneak onto your land. Certainly, for me, it felt like it impeded on the mourning process, right?” 

Phoenix’s mom, Heart, added that she is still hit with waves of mourning, 26 years after River’s death. “The grieving process happens out of nowhere, you know? I’ll be driving and all of a sudden, I will feel it,” she said.

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River Phoenix photographed in 1991. (Photo: Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images)

Phoenix, of course, followed in older brother’s footsteps and also took up acting. Though he’s been doing it since childhood, Phoenix admitted he can be “petrified” on set.

Elaborating, he told Cooper: “There are so many things that I want to express when I take on a role. And I go through the script I – just full of ideas. I guess I’m just nervous that I’m not gonna be able to – to find the right kinda space to express that.” 

With three Oscar nominations under Phoenix’s belt, USA TODAY’s film critic Brian Truitt predicts the star will add another nod to his collection for his work in “Joker.” 

One week ago, Phoenix accepted the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his embodiment of the severely troubled Arthur Fleck.

“There were times where I really felt for him,” Phoenix told Cooper of the character. “And there were times where I was disappointed and repulsed by his behavior, right? And I, I liked that.” 

Joaquin Phoenix talks with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes." (Photo: CBS)

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Not all of the actor’s films have been well-received. The 2010 mockumentary “I’m Still Here,” which followed his attempt to become a rapper, has an audience score of 38% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Phoenix revealed on “60 Minutes” that the film actually made him a little more fearless.

“There’s something liberating about public humiliation,” he said, explaining it has given him the attitude that things “can’t get much worse, right?”

Joaquin Phoenix, center, is present for Jane Fonda's "Fire Drill Fridays" demonstration on Capitol Hill Jan. 10, 2020. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Cooper, who informed viewers while introducing the piece that Phoenix “has a reputation for being difficult during interviews,” ran into a bit of a block when inquiring what the actor did in his off time.

“What do I do? I, um, I think I do normal things,” Phoenix answered. “I like to cook. I really don’t want to talk about what I do.” 

“OK, fine, fine,” responded Cooper.

“You know what I mean, because I just feel like I go, like, ‘I like to cook, I like to go see movies with my girlfriend,’ ” said Phoenix. “But I mean I – I, you know, I think I have very – basic needs. 

“Yeah, never mind, I don’t care,” said Cooper. 

“Even better,” Phoenix returned, laughing. 

Experiencing some free time Friday, the “Her” star was arrested when he joined Jane Fonda on Capitol Hill for her weekly climate change protests in Washington.

Phoenix was right beside the “Grace and Frankie” star before being led away by police for her latest Fire Drill Friday, an initiative in the nation’s capital aimed at demanding politicians address climate change.

Contributing Rasha Ali

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