Movies & TV

Keanu Reeves Beautifully Recalls His Friend River Phoenix

"I hate speaking about him in the past," the actor says of his late friend. "So I almost always gotta keep it present."
IMAGE NEW LINE/KOBAL/SHUTTERSTOCK
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If you're going through the great Keanu Reeves filmographyThe Matrix trilogy, the Bill & Teds, Point Break—you inevitably also come across My Own Private Idaho. Released in 1991, the movie follows two hustlers, Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Reeves), who are searching for the former's mother.

The film's plot is remarkable and remarkably tragic, inspired by Henry IV. Two years later, though, Phoenix died due to a drug overdose, making My Own Private Idaho one of his last films, heightening the emotionality for all future re-watches. And now, in our new cover story with Reeves, the actor expressed how much he still misses his friend. The two actors met on the set of Parenthood, which starred Phoenix's brother, Leaf. (Who later changed his name to Joaquin.) At the time, they even caught a screening of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and took a motorcycle trip to Key West to see a concert.

Here's how writer Ryan D'Agostino describes the moment when he asked the actor about Phoenix:

“He’s a—”
Keanu cuts himself off and smiles downward. Head tilt. What tripped him up was the word he’s. He is. Present tense.
“It’s weird speaking about him in the past,” Keanu says, almost thirty years after River’s death. “I hate speaking about him in the past. So I almost always gotta keep it present. He was a really special person, so original, unique, smart, talented, fiercely creative. Thoughtful. Brave. And funny. And dark. And light. It was great to have known him. To—yeah. Inspirational. Miss him.”

It's a beautiful memorial from Reeves, who speaks memorably about love and loss throughout the entire cover story. Later on, Sandra Bullock—who was in production with Reeves on Speed when Phoenix passed away—remembers how much he grieved for his friend. If anything, though, she sees it as a testament to the depths of his humanity.

“I watched how Keanu grieved. And oh, did he grieve for his friend,” Bullock says. “He’s very private, but he couldn’t hide that. And just to see that a man like that was able to grieve. And I remember thinking, God, if that’s the tip of the iceberg of his depth, and his level of love and care for a friend—that just draws you in.”

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