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Digital Subscriptions > DNA Magazine > DNA #226 | Entertainment issue > STILL IN LOVE WITH RIVER PHOENIX


Naturally gifted, he seemed destined to become the actor of his generation until his shocking, untimely death. On the 25th anniversary of his passing, Xav Judd ponders on what might have been, and pays tribute to his idol.

Every generation has a significant celebrity death: John F Kennedy, Elvis, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse.

I’ll never forget what I was doing when my idol, actor, River Phoenix passed away in October 1993 at age 23. I was staying at a mate’s place in Edinburgh over Halloween. A few of us had just returned from a night’s clubbing when I saw a TV news bulletin reporting that River Phoenix was dead. What made it even more shocking was that this squeaky-clean twentysomething had succumbed to a coke and heroin overdose after leaving Johnny Depp’s Hollywood nightclub, The Viper Room.

Who was this wildly charismatic but troubled performer, and why did he make such an impact on me and the film world?

River Jude Phoenix was born on 23rd August 1970, in Oregon, USA, the eldest child of John and Arlyn. They named him after the river of life in Hermann Hesse’s spiritual novel Siddhartha, which seemed prescient as he certainly had ethereal qualities

The first time I saw River was in the Peter Weir film The Mosquito Coast (1986). Harrison Ford was my favourite actor at the time and famous for the initial instalment of the Star Wars saga (1977–1983). I watched all of his movies religiously but, in this film, was a relatively unknown adolescent out-acting him. No-one I’d seen on film before made such an immediate impression on me.

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Who’s that guy? We welcome hot new find, Mario Rossi, shot by Antony Kozz, to the cover of DNA #226. The 20-year-old Californian makes his debut in a sizzling 8-page spread. And if you like your men rougher, furrier and musclier you won’t want to miss Johnny by Russell Fleming, also featured inside. If you’re after some solid reads we have a bunch of great feature articles this month. We explore what it’s like to be young, queer and Russian… not great! But a new generation of activists are making a difference, plus we explore Russia’s gayer-than-advertised history! Meet Australia’s first openly gay Aussie Rules player… well, the actor who plays the character on TV. That’s delicious Ethan Panizza (Rusty from Playing For Keeps). Finding The Way back is part two of our series on addictions within the LGBT community, we review Boy Erased, and remember how much we were in love with River Phoenix before his untimely passing (and still are). Discover how music is helping break down barriers to LGBT equality in Uganda with the revolutionary Rainbow Riots movement and catch up with Professor Brian Cox – he’s Our Straight Mate this month and discusses the power of staring at the stars. Photographer Paul Freeman shares some of his sexy new Larrikin shots with us and declares the hairy bloke is an endangered species! And the Warwick Rowers give us the low down on stripping off to raise cash for their initiative to combat homophobia in sports. This, with all our regular features, makes DNA #226 one packed issue. Get it now.