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Further Phoenix
at Rio's Attic:

Stand By Me

I Love You To Death

Keanu Reeves

Lawrence Kasdan

Devo Nod

Tracey Ullman

Kevin Kline

Joan Plowright

William Hurt

Laurence Olivier

And That's Not All

Oprah Winfrey Show
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
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And That's Not All

The Memoirs of Joan Plowright

by Joan Plowright
First published in 2001

ISBN 0-297-64593-3 (Hardback, 270 Pages)

Writing an auto-biography is an immensely difficult task at any age, even more so when the aspiring author has been working on both stage and screen and enjoying much success over a period of almost fifty years. Here, English actress Joan Plowright, looks back on both her public and private lives as well as her marriage of more than twenty years to fellow-actor, the late Laurence Olivier.

I Love You to Death was a zany kind of black comedy, based improbably enough on a real-life story. It concerns a desperate and jealous young wife who tries unsuccessfully to have her womanizing husband assassinated; her main helper in this enterprise is her mother. Lawrence Kasdan had assembled a widely assorted cast, including Kevin Kline and William Hurt. Kline played the pizza-parlour-owning husband and the multi-talented Tracy Ullman was his wife. I was her Yugoslavian mother, and Keanu Reeves joined William Hurt as the two pot-smoking hired assassins who prove so inept and hopeless at their task. And the young River Phoenix completed the main cast as a helper in the pizza parlour who is drawn into the family's drama. We rehearsed for about three weeks - unheard of, it seemed, for films - but necessary because of the need to discover a style of comedy playing which would mitigate the underlying blackness of the story. In the real-life story, the wife was sent to prison for attempted murder - and on her release the couple remarried and went on the Oprah Winfrey Show together.

A widely assorted cast it was indeed and yet Joan takes the time to reflect and give a special mention to River in particular. This has happened many times before in the past, in both print and on the screen, and will no doubt continue to happen for many years to come. And time and time again, the person they describe bares no resemblance to the individual or the lifestyle that the tabloid press chooses to present.

We would lose our youngest co-star, River Phoenix, in tragic circumstances a few years later. But when we were filming together, it was River who took me to the health-food stores in search of vitamins and organically grown fruit and vegetables. He came to my trailer one day to ask if I thought he should join a theatre company for a year or two before he did any more films. "I've watched you and Tracy and Kevin," he said, "and seen how quickly you can do a scene entirely differently, if Kasdan says it isn't working. I can't do that - I've only one way of doing it, which is just instinctive." Of course his instinct served him beautifully before in films like Stand By Me, but this particular script needed different technical skills, which he suspected had been acquired by us in the theatre.

Although obviously giving a great deal of serious thought to the notion of undertaking theatrical work, even if only for a short period of time, River's acute lack of confidence ultimately prevented him from seeing this desire fulfilled before it was too late. Another great loss considering what a joy it would have been to experience River's acting skills not for once on the silver screen, but live and in person on the stage.

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