Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix rose to prominence around the same period in the mid-to-late 1980s.
Keanu Reeves is a universally beloved actor. But, the actor has witnessed the loss of many people: his father was not present a lot; then, he suffered the loss of his unborn child, lost in the harsh randomness of prenatal mortality; and a life partner, who was killed in a vehicular accident. A loss that he thinks of to this day is his friend River Phoenix. Talking about him in the Esquire interview, Reeves started to say, "He's a..." When Keanu realized he had talked about him in the present tense, he cut himself short and smiled downward. But he gathered himself and began to talk. “It’s weird speaking about him in the past,” Keanu says, almost thirty years after River’s death. “I hate speaking about him in the past. So I almost always gotta keep it present. He was a really special person, so original, unique, smart, talented, fiercely creative. Thoughtful. Brave. And funny. And dark. And light. It was great to have known him. To—yeah. Inspirational. Miss him.”
Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix rose to prominence around the same period in the mid-to-late 1980s. Despite their six-year age difference, the two became friends after meeting on the set of the 1989 film "Parenthood." Reeves and Phoenix went on to co-star in the 1991 film "My Private Idaho," which reinforced their bond — they even rode motorcycles to a concert in Key West together.
River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves by Bruce Weber, 1991. pic.twitter.com/6uNmcYEitk— MUBI (@mubi) April 6, 2022
Life appeared to be going well for the two pals. Both were on their way to becoming movie stars. However, it abruptly ended on October 31, 1993. Phoenix passed away at the age of 23 after overdosing on heroin outside the Hollywood club The Viper Room. During an interview with Rolling Stone in 2000, Reeves shared what he thought of his friend, saying they 'brought out the best' in each other. "I enjoyed his company. Very much," he said. "And enjoyed his mind and his spirit and his soul. We brought good out in each other. He was a real original thinker. He was not the status quo. In anything."
River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves are the coolest couple and best friend. nobody can change my mind pic.twitter.com/zUJfWrs1QD— riveridaho (@riverjudee) February 21, 2022
Sandra Bullock, who was working on Speed with Reeves at the time Phoenix died, recalls how deeply he mourned for his friend. However, she sees it as a testimonial to the depths of his humanity. “I watched how Keanu grieved. And oh, did he grieve for his friend,” Bullock says. “He’s very private, but he couldn’t hide that. And just to see that a man like that was able to grieve. And I remember thinking, God, if that’s the tip of the iceberg of his depth, and his level of love and care for a friend—that just draws you in.”
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Frazer Harrison