River was the eldest of five Phoenix children — including Joaquin and sisters Rain, Liberty and Summer — all of whom pursued acting from a young age. Best known for his work in the 1986 coming-of-age film Stand By Me and 1991’s My Own Private Idaho, River quickly became a breakout star. He died of a drug overdose outside of the Viper Room in Los Angeles in October 1993, days after Joaquin’s 19th birthday. River was 23 years old.
Since experiencing the heartbreaking loss of his older brother, the Walk the Line star has often spoken about the inspiration River left behind. In September 2020, Joaquin welcomed his first child with fiancée Rooney Mara, a baby boy named River in honor of the late Oscar nominee.
One year before making this touching tribute to his older brother, the Puerto Rico native made it clear that his career wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Explorers star.
“When I was 15 or 16, my brother River came home from work, and he had a VHS copy of a movie called Raging Bull,” Joaquin said in an emotional speech at the Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Gala in September 2019. “And he sat me down and made me watch it. The next day, he woke me up and he made me watch it again. And he said, ‘You’re going to start acting again. This is what you’re going to do.’ He didn’t ask me, he told me. And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life.”
The Joker actor continued: “I feel overwhelmed with emotion, because I’m just thinking about all the people that had such a profound influence on me. … I thought about my family. My sisters Rain and Liberty and Summer, who are still my best friends.”
Scroll down to see more of Joaquin’s sweetest quotes about his late brother, River.