His latest movie is called "The Mosquito Coast," with Harrison Ford. Will you please welcome, River Phoenix.
Sixteen... and at this time in your life it means a big difference between fifteen and sixteen, doesn't it?
It sure does, yeah.
"River Phoenix" - what a strange name! Why didn't they name you something normal like "Dweezil"? Or, you know, the good old-fashioned names?
What are you talking... "River Phoenix"
How did you get...
Yeah but Rivers' the last name.
I see. Well, there's a difference?
I could have been, "J...," I could have been like, "Peeka Rivers," you know? How did... Were your parents "Children of the Sixties"?
Yeah, they were.
Which makes sense.
And who else is in the family then?
There's Rainbow, Leaf, Liberty and Summer.
...if you're good looking!
Do you know what I'm saying? Because you're very cute, so they've got to be very cute. If your sister, Rainbow, had been a pig, it wouldn't have been so... But you know what I mean? Does that make sense?
They're not though!
No... It's that... I figured if you're cute, they've got to be cute.
Are you all "in the business"?
Yeah - they're all acting.
All acting. Now tell me about being... Now your parents obviously were "flower children"?
So where were you brought up?
All over. Errm, from three to seven, I was in South America - Venezuela, in Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Do you remember it at all?
Yeah! Yeah, I remember real well.
And, was it fun? I mean...
Yes, it was pretty "day to day." It was err, pretty spontaneous, you know? We didn't have a place to live so we just kinda went all over the place.
So what did your parents do during that time?
They were missionaries. They were doing missionary work down there.
So how do you get... What do they call you for short, "Pheen"?
Sometimes... "Rio," sometimes.
P? PR? Rio?
Okay, can I call you Rio?
So how do you get from missionary's children, to being in the movies? That's a major jump!
Yeah, well, errm. Well, in the missionary group I learned how to play guitar and so we were into entertaining and so we just wanted to be, err, in the movies, and we wanted to be recording artists, so we came to Hollywood, and err...
And then what?
And then... we just like, sang in Westwood a lot - my sister and I, and all the family and...
On the street?
On the streets.
ON THE STREET?!?
Yeah, the cops had to kick us out because err, the crowds were getting into the street and were causing accidents.
Did those two look familiar, that frisked you on the way in?
No, they don't.
So, go on...
Errm... So anyway, we got an agent, Iris Burton, who's in the audience.
Oh, I know Iris, yes. She's a nice lady.
Yes, and err...
And a good agent.
Very good agent.
So how did you get such a good agent?
She gave me this ring.
Oh, let's see! I'll trade you! Err... So go on. How did...
Err, we just started doing commercials and stuff, and one thing led to another, and err, then movies, and here I am, now on "Joan Rivers"!
Well, this is not the pinnacle of your life! I mean... So do you like the movies? Do you realize how lucky you are? I mean, sixteen years, and also this strange, wonderful life you've had...
- going from missionary's kid to movies, you know?
Yeah - lucky.
Yeah. Do you... At sixteen... So, do you have a normal life of any kind? Do you have a girlfriend?
Oh, yeah! I got a girlfriend.
Yeah - so who's the girlfriend? Who's the girlfriend?!? You can tell me, Rio! Oh, they're not listening! They're busy watching glitter, glitter, glitter.
Where's the clip?
That's... We'll just put the clip on, don't worry.
Look how "show-biz" you are! "Where's the clip?"
Well, I figured they could answer your question a little.
Yeah... But do you... I have one... Do you have like any kind of a normal life? Do you go to high school, like a real high school, or...?
Oh, errm, well, I've been filming for like the last two and a half years in movies so I've had a tutor on the set but I recently enrolled in high school down in San Diego so after...
You live in San Diego?
Yeah. So, after I've finished the next movie, I'll go to school. And, my tutor's in the audience too.
Now, so what grade would you be in if you "were in"?
Err, tenth in some things, and eleventh in other things. Math is tenth.
Do you think you'll go on to college or do you think you'll just stay with the acting?
You're a terrific actor!
I'd like to stay with, err yeah, acting, and I'd like to get into err, music too, if that happens.
Tell me about Harrison Ford? Was he fun?
Yeah, he was.
Tell us a little bit about "Mosquito Coast," then we can show the clip.
Okay - "Mosquito Coast." Err...
What's the basic story?
Well, it's not "Robinson Crusoe." It, errm, it sounds like it, but it's not. It's about err, this father who takes his err, family, because he can't stand the "system" and err, he goes down to Mosquito Coast, which is some sub-tropical region and he makes his own civilization the way nature intended, quote, unquote. And err, then of course, everything just falls apart like it should in most movies.
Right. And then gets back together at the end?
Yeah, kind of.
Let's see the clip that you brought us. Okay. This is from "Mosquito Coast."
So, what does your old man do?
My father's an inventor. He invented this mechanical mop. You sort of dance around with it. It works all by itself, you'd have to see it.
My father is a genius.
Charlie - do you have a girlfriend?
I could be your girlfriend, if you want. I think about you when I go to the bathroom...
Who was the girl? Who's the girl?
That was played by Martha Plimpton.
She's very good, Martha Plimpton.
She is, yeah.
Well, I wish you great success - you're just adorable!
Thank you very much.
Yeah, my pleasure to talk to you. Have a happy holiday!
on The Tonight Show. Also featuring River Phoenix as Charlie Fox and Martha Plimpton as Emily Spellgood in Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast.