River Phoenix was just 23 when he died. Picture: Getty Images
River Phoenix was just 23 when he died. Picture: Getty Images

Phoenix’s ex reveals all about night he died

THE actress who was dating River Phoenix at the time of his death, has spoken out in detail for the first time about what happened on the night the actor died.

Samantha Mathis, who had starred opposite Phoenix during the 1993 filming of The Thing Called Love - the actor's final role, told The Guardian she had buried what happened to the prodigiously talented Phoenix "for decades" because she was traumatised by his death but now felt now "the universe wanted me to talk about him".

River Phoenix was a prodigious talent. Picture: Supplied
River Phoenix was a prodigious talent. Picture: Supplied

In the interview, Mathis recalled having an uneasy feeling when she and Phoenix arrived at Johnny Depp's Viper Room on Los Angeles' famous Sunset Boulevard on October 31, 1993.

"I knew something was wrong that night, something I didn't understand," Mathis told the publication.

"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."

Phoenix, despite Mathis' urging wanted to stay at the club and "play music" with friends who included Depp, members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers.

"I knew he was high that night, but the heroin that killed him didn't happen until he was in the Viper Room. I have my suspicions about what was going on, but I didn't see anything.

"Forty-five minutes [after we got there], he was dead," Mathis recalled.

 

River Phoenix and Samantha Mathis in his final role, That Thing Called Love. Picture: Supplied
River Phoenix and Samantha Mathis in his final role, That Thing Called Love. Picture: Supplied

The actress said she remembered coming out of a bathroom and seeing Phoenix involved in an altercation with another man that spilt out onto the footpath.

It was then Phoenix collapsed on the footpath and started having convulsions.

Mathis recalled Phoenix's siblings Joaquin and Rain rushing to help.

Joaquin's agonised call to emergency services - "Please come, he's dying, please" got wide play in the aftermath.

But the actor was pronounced dead at the hospital from an overdose of cocaine and heroin.

 

River Phoenix had been compared to James Dean. Picture: Supplied
River Phoenix had been compared to James Dean. Picture: Supplied

 

River Phoenix died at 23. Picture: Supplied
River Phoenix died at 23. Picture: Supplied

Mathis says though friends of the actor had thought he was slipping into a serious drug addiction, she remembered his final year as happy, describing a period where the couple stayed with his family in Florida and Costa Rica.

"We just hung out with his siblings and got to be kids," she recalled. "He was so good at hanging out."

 

River Phoenix with Will Wheaton, Jerry O'Connell, and Corey Feldman in Stand By Me. Picture: Supplied
River Phoenix with Will Wheaton, Jerry O'Connell, and Corey Feldman in Stand By Me. Picture: Supplied

Mathis says she now remembers Phoenix as "sensitive and obsessive. He felt things on his heart very deeply."

Another former girlfriend Martha Plimpton said after he died: "He was just a boy, a very good-hearted boy who was very f***ed up and had no idea how to implement his good intentions."

 

Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was there the night River Phoenix died. Picture: AP
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was there the night River Phoenix died. Picture: AP

 

The Viper Room was then-owned by Johnny Depp. Picture: AP
The Viper Room was then-owned by Johnny Depp. Picture: AP

After he died, his mother Arlyn told Esquire magazine that her son "became more and more uncomfortable" with his fame.

 

River Phoenix with another love, actress Martha Plimpton, in 1989. Picture: WireImage
River Phoenix with another love, actress Martha Plimpton, in 1989. Picture: WireImage

 

"He often said he wished he could just be anonymous. But he never was. When he wasn't a movie star, he was a missionary. There's a beauty in that - the man with the cause, the leader - but there's also a deep loneliness."

 

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as hustlers in My Own Private Idaho. Picture: Supplied
River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as hustlers in My Own Private Idaho. Picture: Supplied

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