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Daughter of actor Keith Carradine and actress Shelley Plimpton, Martha Plimpton would take to the stage at age 10 in the New York Public Theatre's production of The Haggadah. This was followed by a series of Calvin Klein television commercials that led to her first film Rollover in 1981.
Matha Plimpton and River's Stand By Me co-star Corey Feldman in the 1985 movie The Goonies.
She would then soon be cast, along with River, in Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast playing Emily Spellgood, daughter of the missionary Reverend Spellgood. It would be here where the two began what would turn out to be River's longest lasting relationship. They would soon be working together again when Plimpton was cast as Lorna Phillips in Running On Empty.
Martha Plimpton would often stay with River and his family for extended periods during their relationship. "I love River's family," she told Esquire magazine. "They brought him up to believe he was a pure soul who had a message to deliver about the world. But in moving around all the time, changing schools, keeping to themselves and distrusting America, they created this utopian bubble so that River was never socialised. He was never prepared for dealing with crowds and with Hollywood."
Not long after she accompanied River to the Sixty-first Academy Awards in 1989 their relationship would come to an end. Talking of the split, she said, "When we split up, a lot of it was that I had learned that screaming, fighting and begging wasn't going to change him. He had to change himself and he didn't want to yet." Both remained friends however and Martha Plimpton would accompany River to the New York premier of Dogfight two years later. She would also attempt to provide River with emotional support when his next relationship with Sue Solgot hit the rocks. "He'd often be high when he called," said Plimpton. "I'd listen for twenty minutes to his jumbled, made-up words, his own logic, and not know what he was talking about. His language would become totally incoherent. He'd say, 'You're just not listening carefully enough'."