"Actually I met Keanu through my ex-girlfriend Martha [Plimpton] while they were doing Parenthood -- they were sucking face regularly. My brother Joaquin, otherwise known as Leaf, was also in it. So Leaf and Martha were his buddies before I was even a friend of his. Then I met up with him on I Love You to Death. And I liked the guy. I wanted to work with him. He's like my older brother. But shorter."

                                                                                                River Phoenix

"We were doing I Love You to Death, and we both got the Idaho script. We were driving in a car on Santa Monica Boulevard, probably on the way to a club, and were talking really fast about the whole idea. We were excited. It could have been like bad dream -- a dream that never follows through because no one commits, but we just forced ourselves into it. We said, "O.K., I'll do it if you do it. I won't do it if you don't." We shook hands. That was it."

                                                                                                 Keanu Reeves

When the controversial film My Own Private Idaho began production, the word around Hollywood was that Phoenix convinced the recalcitrant Keanu Reeves to take the risk of also playing gay in the film. Phoenix disagrees. "Convinced him? No. He was gung-ho from the very beginning," he remembers. "Keanu supported me and I supported him. But we did have a sort of thing where if one didn't do it, the other couldn't, since we had decided impulsively at the same time to do it.  So the only way we could follow up on such an impulsive notion was if we both did it.

During Idaho's filming in the fall of 1990, nine cast and crew members, including Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, slept on scattered futons in Van Sant's house. It was a college dorm, a tribe, a family. Van Sant showed me his garage, where a bona fide garage band of Phoenix and Reeves and other Idaho actors, as well as Flea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player, often jammed late at night.

They played the sweet, off-kilter lyrics Phoenix had written for himself and for his band, Aleka's Attic-"Run to the rescue with love/and peace will follow" or "Hey, lo, where did your halo go?" They played the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, balancing ashtrays on Van Sant's black BMW and drinking wine, smoking marijuana. Sometimes they ended up in tears with Phoenix as he talked about the vanishing rain forests.

"I think he's the best. He asks questions that I don't normally think about sometimes. He works in a way that, at least for me, showed me how to get it more in my blood and more imaginative."

                      Keanu Reeves about River

Keeny, he's a sweetheart. People don't understand him. He's on this earth, he's a together guy. He'll rule the world-very smart, indigenous, and very productive."

                            River Phoenix

 

 

River Phoenix - But, seriously, we know what it's like to be on the bottom. The Lord Jesus Christ has given us a chance to be on top. So we're not going to abuse it. We're going to be very thankful for it and gracious about the luck that we have in our positions. We're very lucky young men. We do what we want, we get to be creative and make money.

Keanu Reeves - Right on, brother. Right on.

HOW DO YOU SPEND TIME BETWEEN TAKES?

"All silly things. When River is bored he does imitations. He may speak with a strange accent and make his characters German... He always makes me laugh. He could become a comedian."

                                 Keanu Reeves

QUESTION: Define 'Best Friend'.

RIVER: Someone you can tell all your secrets to. For me it's a guy you enjoy being with, a guy you love and a guy you care about. Keanu is my buddy, dude.

KEANU: I've always loved you, River. River is my best friend and I don't have many of them.

RIVER: That's really sweet, Keany.

Keanu smiles that sheepish, cute smile. "I felt a bit of anxiety about Idaho. It was a little like, Oh no!! Can I do this? I was afraid. But River made me fit in. Said, 'Let's do one bitchin' movie....'"

Keanu Reeves, when asked about River Phoenix:
No comment, hahahaha. The only thing I'm going to say is that, in my eyes, he really is underestimated by the public. Sad, because one day he will be the biggest actor in Hollywood. Actually he's the most talented young actor there is right now in Hollywood. We knew each other already from working together on I Love You To Death. This made doing My Own Private Idaho a lot easier. We made a kind of blood brother pact. River is a real good friend. He's so uncomplicated. And we have many things in common. For example, our love of motorbikes. Every evening that we don't spend together we're on the phone. River doesn't really like LA. so he's planning to move to Montana. Then we won't he able to meet that often anymore. But luckily he's art actor, so to work he has to come here often so then we can do all the crazy things together. "

on his friend river phoenix: "He's beautiful, inventive, funny and creative, too."

If there was a moment of panic during the shooting of SPEED, it was when the cast and crew received word that River Phoenix had died of a drug overdose. Reeves and Phoenix had been like brothers - the two had played lovers in MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, and had a private kinship between them unusual in Hollywood. Sandra Bullock too, had just finished shooting THE THING CALLED LOVE with Phoenix, and almost thought that SPEED would come to a halt. "Our job is our private life," she explains. "There's no way you can keep something like this out of your work."

For Bullock, a difficult situation was aggravated because her co-star reminded her of her late friend. "River was a product of his own goodness. It was almost like he was too good to be on this Earth. Like, everyone else steps over the homeless people: River could not step over a homeless person. He had to rehabilitate them and give them a life."

"And he was incredibly honest - one minute I'd want to club him because he was driving me crazy, and then he'd say something that was out there. I'd be like,'I have to go to my room now and recover from that statement.' On set he'd throw himself on you and say, 'I like you so much,' and you never meet people like that. But when I met Keanu, I was like, 'Oh my God. This is exactly like River"

"All I can say is that I have never felt a thing like that before in my life," he says quietly. "I was very sad, and something beyond sad. I don't know what it is, just that you sob for hours . . ."

   Keanu Reeves commenting on River's death

ďYou canít blame Hollywood for what happened to River, kids are doing drugs everywhere in the world.  He had his own very personal problems-I will never discuss them with the press-theyíre just way too personal.  River had a self-destructive side to his personality.  He was angry and hurt that he couldnít have a private life once he became famous.  He just couldnít deal with having his private life on the front page all the time.Ē

                      Keanu Reeves

"River felt differently about things than I do. He allowed the suffering in the world to get to him and he wanted everyone to be as free and happy as he was. I was devastated by his death, but I didn't for one moment think, thank God, I stayed clean. I live a real low-key life at the moment and I like to deal with pressures in other ways."

                               Keanu Reeves

River was a remarkable artist and a rare human being. I miss him every day."

    Keanu Reeves

"I was downstairs in my house and a friend was there who heard it on the news upstairs." Reeves can't even express how he felt. All he can mumble is, "I miss him very much." Reincarnation is one of the basic tenets of Buddhism, but does Reeves think Phoenix is still out there somewhere? "Hmm, where *is* Mr Phoenix going?" he muses, cheering up considerably. "I don't know. I guess what I've come to believe, from what I've read, is that I almost take reincarnation for granted. It never seemed to me to be something that wouldn't happen. There is definitely transmigration of energy."

Is there camaraderie amongst you? This new generation of actors?
Keanu Reeves - No, we donít hang out. The only one I was friends with was River (Phoenix)...

His untimely death plunged Hollywood into shock and placed him in the same galaxy as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean... Can stars escape tragedy?
Keanu Reeves - You have to forget their tragic death and remember that they were great actors, exceptional talents, who shone in heaven, on screen... So much beauty, so much emotion, so much sorrow... If people felt close to them, it's because these stars were magnificent actors and their passing is all the more painful, frustrating. Thatís the tragedy. But I also think, and Iíd like to believe, that thanks to them, actors are born and will continue to be born...

When did you and River Phoenix meet?
Keanu Reeves - River and I met during Lawrence Kasdanís I Love You To Death in 1990. We hit it off right away. We were on the same wavelength. During the filming, we both got the script for Gus Van Santís My Own Private Idaho and immediately ate it up. We had finished Larry (Kasdan's) film, and one night in LA it must have been half past midnight, River and I were cruising down Fairfax toward Hollywood and I said to him: So are you gonna do the movie? And he said: I donít know, I will if you will. And I said: me too, lets do it! We met up again in Gusís film! Really I wouldnít have done it if River hadnít, it was really for the both of us.

You werenít afraid to endanger your image by playing a couple of druggy hustlers?
Keanu Reeves - Not for a minute. First of all, the script was marvelous and neither River or me had this notion of our image, of respectability or this awareness of risk.

The declaration of love by the fire is overwhelming...
Keanu Reeves - .... (long silence) River was an exceptional person, incredible... Where is my Juliet? Bullshit, Fuck! (Another long silence) He was a really good guy.

What do you think of the young people who placed flowers and poems on the sidewalk where he died, and the tabloids who talked of nothing but drugs?
Keanu Reeves - I like that people brought flowers in front of the VIPER. That they showed their affection... As for the tabloids, all the stuff theyíve been saying, I think its disgusting, its to sell papers, thatís all!

 

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