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Further Phoenix
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The Children of God

Joaquin Phoenix, Leaf Phoenix

Los Angeles


Viper Room

Chris Chambers

James Dean

Mike Waters

Jeff Grant

Danny Pope


Leonardo DiCaprio

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film

David Thomson

The Muppets

Jim Henson

Angelina Jolie

Catherine Zeta Jones

Haley Joel Osment

Jim Carroll

The Basketball Diaries
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film
Fourth Edition

by David Thomson
First published in 1975

ISBN 0-316-85905-2 (Hardback, 970 Pages)

Presently in its fourth edition, this collection of mini-biographies provides a useful "who's who" reference to the countless performers of the movie industry over the years. First printed in 1975, this self-proclaimed reference dictionary has now been updated again to include everyone from off-screen performers like Muppets creator Jim Henson, through to more contemporary figures such as Angelina Jolie and Catherine Zeta Jones, as well as up-and-coming performers like Haley Joel Osment.

River Phoenix (1970-93) b. Madras, Oregon
From his classic beginnings as the child of hippies who had moved from a cult, the Children of God, to getting on in Hollywood, to his abrupt death on the sidewalk outside the Viper Room in Los Angeles, River Phoenix is easier to accept as a character (in a TV movie of the week) than as an actual person. Yet at all stages of his short life, rumor and PR get in the way of the real facts. For anyone that famous that early, there is so little point in turning to reality as a point of saving reference.

River is mentioned on occasion at other points in the book which features a thousand or so profiles in total. During the section on Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, the author talks about River being originally cast to play DiCaprio's role of Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries. It's during the section about River though, that the author goes on to raise the most interesting and provocative of all the points he raises.

ISBN 0-375-41128-3 (Hardback, 976 Pages)

He was a rock musician as well as an actor, and even before his death he had become an icon to a generation. Was he promising, or good? Yes. But put his work next to Dean's three films, and you can feel the difference between the loss of a myth and a celebrity accident.

The author's deep-rooted admiration for James Dean comes as no great shock having already been firmly established earlier in the book with an entire page given over to his career. The author fondly recalls seeing Dean's movies for the first time as well as discussing his achievements before his movie career.

But to compare James Dean and River Phoenix so curtly provides something of a disservice to both performers. Such a comparison, while predictably dividing fans, deserves a much closer examination. The now iconic image of Dean as the rebellious 1950's teenager has become part of movie-industry lore, and something that a picture of Jeff Grant, for example, is unlikely to ever re-create with the same accomplishment. Likewise, Dean's career, sadly curtailed as it was, precluded him from a career portraying such diverse and varied characters stretching from the likes of Chris Chambers and Danny Pope through to Mike Waters. Truly, one can no easily compare James Dean with River Phoenix than one can proverbially compare apples and oranges.

None of these issues seems to matter to the author who without pause for any reflection given in such large measure to other performers, quickly goes on to list River's lengthy film credits. Joaquin Phoenix is briefly mentioned at the end of the section about River, described by the author as someone who "promises to be better still," but does not apparently yet deserve a section of his own.

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