River Phoenix

Startlingly mature, gifted young actor who made a major impact on screen before drugs ended his life at the age of 23 (1994), outside Johnny Depp's Los Angeles club, the Viper Room.

His all-American looks and pensive manner made him appealing to teenage fans, but his dedication to the craft of acting set him apart from other youthful heartthrobs. Born to unconventional parents (who named their other children Leaf, Rainbow, Summer, and Liberty), he landed his first steady job as a cast member in the shortlived TV series "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (1982-83), and had a notable part in the telefilm Surviving (1985). He made his big-screen debut in Explorers (1985), but it was his role as Wil Wheaton's pal from the wrong side of the tracks in Stand by Me (1986) that established him as a comer. He had a meaty part as Harrison Ford's son in The Mosquito Coast (1986), and then earned an Oscar nomination for his heartrending performance as the son of radicals-on-the-run Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti in Running on Empty (1988). His other films include Little Nikita, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (both also 1988), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, as young Indy), and I Love You to Death (1990). He gave knockout performances in a pair of 1991 movies, Dogfight (as a Vietnam-bound Marine) and My Own Private Idaho (as a narcoleptic male hustler). He had costarring roles in Sneakers (1992), The Thing Called Love (1993), and Sam Shepard's Silent Tongue (1994). He was in production on a movie called Dark Blood and was scheduled to begin production on Interview With the Vampire (both 1994) when he collapsed from a drug overdose and died.