Later, the family lived in a hut on the beach in Venezuela, and River and his younger sister Rainbow, spent their days singing hymns in the plazas of Caracas. But by the time River was 11, he and his family were in Los Angeles--where after doing four commercials, River decided to quit the "phony stuff" and do only serious acting. He landed a part in the TV series "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers." The rest you could call history.
Now a well-established celebrity, River is pretty much publicity-shy. He doesn't exactly want to be fussed over by the press. Or turned into a teen idol. Or picked out as the paparazzi's dream boy. But he's a guy who's really got it goin' on and, like it or not, that makes people interested.
So what is it about him exactly? Well, he's cool, he cares (about people, animals and the whole planet) and--news flash!--he's totally radical as a cowboy, which you'll be able to see for yourself when you catch his soon-to-be-released new movie, The Thing Called Love, a modern-day love story set in the competitive world of Nashville's country music scene.
River stars with Samantha Mathis, Dermot Mulroney and Sandra Bullock, as one of four ambitious and untried young music makers out to follow their fortune and try to make it big in the country capital.
When the four young singer/songwriters paths' collide, it sets in motion an emotional whirlwind that tangles up the strings of all their lives and forces each, for the first time in their lives, to make an honest assessment of their talents and what they're striving for.
Watch for debut film performances by country phenomena Trisha Yearwood (playing herself) and K.T. Oslin, who appears as sort of a "den mother" to the new wave of amateurs who hang around the famous Bluebird Cafe...And when you see River doing his thing in a cowboy hat, you're definitely gonna feel the thing called love yourself!
Full name: River Jude Phoenix
Birthday: August 23, 1970
Current residence: Florida
Siblings: Sisters Rainbow, Liberty Butterfly and Summer; brother Leaf
Education: Tutored at home with the rest of the kids
Lullabies: When he was little, River's mom used to sing him to sleep with the Carole King song "You've Got a Friend."
Feature film debut: Explorers
Career highlights: Came to national attention with his role in Stand By Me; received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination in 1988, at the age of 17, for his role as the son of two radical fugitives in Running on Empty; has previously appeared in 10 films, the last two being My Own Private Idaho and Sneakers.
Other ambitions: To direct. "Being an actor you've got to worry about your image all the time...A director can sit back and just observe people."
Up next in: Silent Tongue, again with Dermot Mulroney
River says: "I don't know if the superior being is in the form of a man, woman or jellyfish. But when I think of my parents and their different worlds and how they met and had kids--there has to be something up there."