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Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
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Johnny Depp - The Illustrated Biography

by Nick Johnstone
First published in 2006

ISBN 1-84442-226-7 (Hardback, 128 Pages)

An enormous collection of full color pictures, featuring movie stills, various publicity shots photos of actor Johnny Depp as well as a number of candid shots does indeed justify the book's title of an illustrated biography. By far the shortest biography about Depp we've seen to date, it makes for a rather light read and can easily be read cover-to-cover in a day or so.

River is featured heavily on one page of this biography. This comes after the author examines the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape, the break-up of Depp's relationship with actress Winona Ryder and discussing his drug use and heavy drinking during the early 90's.

The sense of having got away lightly was driven home on 30 October 1993 when fellow actor River Phoenix came to The Viper Room with his girlfriend Samantha Mathis, his brother Leaf, sister Rain and Flea, the bass guitarist in the band Red Hot Chili Peppers. Johnny knew River: the two young actors had a mutual respect for the other's work. They had occasionally talked about appearing in a project together. Shortly after midnight, River Phoenix was helped out of the club, feeling unwell. As the group and a club doorman debated what to do, Leaf made a 911 call, asking for medical assistance. By the time the paramedics arrived, it was too late. Phoenix had died on the sidewalk outside The Viper Room. Cause of death was given as "acute multiple drug ingestion".

Very much like the various other Depp biographies that have been written it is once again the case that, predictably, even understandably, the author creates a book that panders to his audience and portrays Johnny Depp as the biggest victim of that fateful night.

The senseless death hit Johnny hard. Twice in his life, once recently, he had lived on the edge. Now he had concrete proof of what happened if you didn't wake up one morning and make some changes. In interviews he spoke of River Phoenix having made a mistake, of his shock at how the talented actor was here and then gone. As the tabloids ran with the story of Phoenix's untimely death, Johnny had to deal with media speculation that The Viper Room was permitting open drug use, an untrue rumour that hurt, especially since he had put his own wild days behind him. "All the tabloids started saying we were having drug parties," he later said. "The whole thing was weird, awful, ugly and sad. The incident is seared onto my brain, onto my heart."

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