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River was also very pleased to be working with theatre actors Alan Bates and Richard Harris. "He looked on me as a kind of father figure," said Harris. "He bonded very, very strongly with Richard Harris," remembers producer Caroline Pfeiffer. "He always wanted to make sure that Richard was fine, that Richard wasn't lonely. He was like a mother hen, River."
River also became a good friend with Alan Bates who reminded him of his own son. "He was hugely fond of my son," said Bates. "My other son and my wife died, and River was wonderful to my [surviving] son. River talked to him for hours over the phone when his mother died. I think River was like my late son. He was years ahead of his time, actually. He was ahead of his age. I think people like that are very vulnerable to.... well, to other people. They are prey for the not-so-good."
Reaching the same conclusions as Naomi Foner had done on the set of Running On Empty, co-star Dermot Mulroney found River "under-educated and over-intelligent." Mulroney introduced River to director Sam Shepard's previous works and the two became close friends.
When there were not enough trailers to go round causing actress Sheila Tousey to live in a honey wagon, River graciously swapped. Recalls Carolyn Pfeiffer, "We didn't have enough trailers to give to everyone, so we gave them to the first four above-the-line people. When River started working with Sheila, he realized that she was in a honey wagon and he was in a trailer, and she not only had long makeup hours, but a lot of preparation doing vocal exercises. So he came to me and said, 'I'd like to go into the honey wagon.' I'd never had an actor say 'May I give up my comfortable space for a smaller one because one of my fellow performers needs it more than I do?' "
First shown in 1994, Silent Tongue would become the final movie to be released that starred River Phoenix. Rolling Stone magazine described it as "a performance of unbearable poignancy" and "a fitting capper to an extraordinary career." In the last scene at the close of the movie, River's character walks slowly into the distance before disappearing forever. "WHERE TO?", shouts another desert traveler, but receives no answer. In fact, only with hindsight do we now know the answer to that question.
Farewell, dear River.