'I Knew Something Was Wrong': River Phoenix's Final Night

Actress Samantha Mathis talks to the Guardian for the 25th anniversary of his death
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2018 7:40 AM CDT
In this undated photo provided by the Miami International Film Festival, actor River Phoenix is shown while filming the movie “Dark Blood.”   (AP Photo/Miami International Film Festival)
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(Newser) – Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the fatal drug overdose of River Phoenix, the 23-year-old actor seemingly destined for Hollywood greatness. The Guardian marks the occasion by interviewing his girlfriend at the time, actress Samantha Mathis, who opens up for the first time about his final night. She recalls that they went to the LA nightclub the Viper Room to drop off his siblings, Leaf (now Joaquin) and Rain, and that she and River were supposed to go back to her house. Then River told her he'd like to stay to play music. "I knew something was wrong that night, something I didn't understand," she says. "I didn't see anyone doing drugs but he was high in a way that made me feel uncomfortable—I was in way over my head," she says. Mathis reluctantly agreed to stay, figuring it wouldn't be for long. "Forty-five minutes later, he was dead."

Mathis remembers exiting the bathroom and seeing River in what appeared to be a scuffle with another man. After a bouncer pushed the men out a side door, River collapsed. "What have you done? What are you on?" Mathis says she shouted at the second man. "Leave him alone, you're spoiling his high," she recalls him answering. River soon died of a cocaine and heroin overdose, and Mathis says he didn't get the heroin until he was in the club (which was partly owned by Johnny Depp). The articles touches on much more about River's eclectic, activist life and their relationship. "I'm looking at a photo of him now, oh wow," Mathis says at one point, trailing off. "I think if River was still here, I think he'd be acting, directing, saving the environment, just living and hanging out. Oh gosh, wouldn't that be nice?" Read the full article. (Read more River Phoenix stories.)

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