There are plenty of “what could have been” stories in Hollywood history, many of them focused on casting what-ifs, but some of them are based around a tragedy.
What could have been if Heath Ledger, after his iconic performance as the Joker, hadn’t accidentally overdosed? What could have been if James Dean hadn’t died in a car crash after starring in a mere three movies?
What could have been if River Phoenix, one of the most promising young actors of his generation, hadn’t died at the Viper Room at the age of 23? Maybe his career wouldn’t have been similar to the one his little brother Joaquin has made for himself. Unfortunately, we’ll never find out.
Over the weekend, Joaquin and his partner Rooney Mara welcomed their first child and named him River. Director Victor Kossakovvksy revealed the name after a screening of his documentary Gunda, which Phoenix produced, telling the crowd, “He just got a baby by the way … A beautiful son called River.”
🚨 Viktor Kossakovsky 📽️, Gunda: He just had a baby Boy who’s Called River. ( about Joaquin) pic.twitter.com/WuUISnuTsZ
— Max California’s Lover (@Paula_FlorV) September 27, 2020
It’s clear Joaquin had much admiration for his older brother, and naming his first-born after him is a touching tribute to a talented young actor who never had the chance to have a full career. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been all that unlike Joaquin’s impressive resume.
Joaquin won an Oscar for his role as the Joker in last year’s Todd Phillips movie, and he’s consistently been one of the most interesting and acclaimed actors of the decade. His older brother died before he had a chance to win an Academy Award, but his performances in Stand By Me, Running on Empty, and My Own Private Idaho suggest it wouldn’t have been long.
He may have never won an Oscar, but his memory lives on.