“In the early 90’s they were touring and I was fortunate to be chosen to accompany them to dinner and the show. They were all truly talented, so amazing and nice. I remember us going to eat at Ryan’s Steak House…we ate the buffet because they were vegetarians and it just made ordering easier. The band played at Tip Top, a local bar in Huntsville, AL. This was so long ago…the details are fuzzy. I remember talking to him about his family. I may have mistaken how many of his sisters were there at the time. The experience was wonderful, a memory I will try to hold on to forever. It was all positive, he was so kind and sweet.”
THANKS AND CREDIT GO TO LINDY CRITELLI LAMBERT
MEETING RIVER AND HIS FAMILY - BY BRAZILIAN LIZZIE BRAVO
Way back in 1990, when I lived in New York (from 1984 to 1994), on a regular workday at my home-office in the East Village, I was told by our main office in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to get in touch with Heart Phoenix. At the time, I represented Brazilian singer/songwriter/ superstar Milton Nascimento and was an assistant to his manager.
They wanted to meet Milton, after hearing the beautiful song he had written for River (he saw "Stand by Me" - Milton is a major movie fan - and was very impressed with the young actor's performance). We communicated via phone and fax to try to find a date that would be suitable for everyone. River was filming, Milton was on a US tour.
It was finally decided it would be in Atlanta. The day of the concert was July 7th,1990, the place was Piedmont Park and the event the Atlanta Jazz Series. The crowd was of approximately 10.000 people.
Heart drove, with River sleeping in the back seat. His girlfriend was also with them. When they arrived, we met outside the hotel, the Wyndham, on Peachtree Avenue or Street. This photo of the 4 of us is from that moment - River looks definitely sleepy!
When we headed back to the hotel entrance, River asked his mother for some money. It was a really small amount, something like US$5.00. She asked him didn't he want some more and he said that was enough. I thought that was so cute: an internationally acclaimed actor, yet he still acted like a little boy beside his mother!
It was still daylight when the concert started and River, his girlfriend - if I'm not mistaken her name was Susan - Heart and I sat on the grass right in front of the stage, at a fenced-in spot for guests. I have beautiful photos of them from this moment. River in awe as he listened to his song...
After the concert, River invited us out to dinner - the three of them, Milton and I. We went to a restaurant that I can't remember if it was Thai or from what other country, but the table was round and there was this thin bread covering it, and some small bowls with different foods. You were supposed to tear up pieces of the bread and fill them with the food - all with your hands! I had never been to a restaurant like that, it was quite interesting.
We all hit it off right from the start, we talked a lot, it was great. After dinner we went to Milton's suite at the hotel, where he and River played the guitar. At some point, Milton couldn't control himself and told them about me singing with The Beatles. That was it! Try telling a hippie family that someone has met the band? River asked me several questions and I told them the whole story, with details. Their jaws dropped!
I mailed River some photos I took of The Beatles, and apparently he loved them.
(It's no joke, I've spent a long time looking for my 1990 diary and I found EVERY other one but that!)
On April 10, 1991, River left a ticket for me to see Aleka's Attic at Wetlands in New York City. I went, took some photos - had to endure the funny looks by River's young fans who didn't understand what an older woman was doing there so close to the stage taking pictures - and after the show River took me to a table at the back and asked me several questions. He wanted to know what I thought of the concert, the sound, everything.
I met Heart and other family members once again when Milton played a concert in Gainesville, on November 22, 1992. River was out of town.
Another meeting was at a Milton concert in Los Angeles. I am not sure, but it could have been right after the Wetlands gig, in April 1991. I took many photos.
The last time I saw River was here in Rio, at Milton's house, around June 1992. Heart prepared a vegetarian feast and my brother and I were invited. It was a lovely evening, good food and conversation. River took me by the hand and led me upstairs, where he placed the earphones of his Walkman on my ears and played a new song of his for me to listen and give my opinion. Unfortunately, I can't remember the song's name. I was flattered that he wanted to show me the song and hear my opinion.
I also met Heart here in Rio at Eco 92. I came from New York as an interpreter for The Beach Boys.
What I remember about River is him being a very beautiful, caring, sweet and kind young man. It was a privilege to meet this very special family. His death was a shock and a huge sadness, which remains until today when I think of him.
When I find my diary, I will read it and see if there's anything else to tell, something I have forgotten.
And as for the rest of the photos, when my book is done I will have time to look for them and share them with you.
My love to everyone and let's celebrate the enlightened human being that was River Jude Phoenix!
MANY THANKS GO TO LIZZIE FOR HER WONDERFUL STORY - AND ALSO, THANK YOU TO JUAN PABLO DESIDEIRO
DEWEY MELTON'S STORY - THE PHONE CALL HE'LL NEVER FORGET
Dewey Melton - a 15 year old from Phyllis, Kentucky first discovered River while he was in hospital. He had many serious physical and emotional problems, and was very ill - he was at the time unable to talk or eat. One night a nurse came into his room and put on a movie for him to watch - it was Stand By Me.
When Dewey was well enough to go home, he decided to write River a letter. After a few weeks he received a reply - a newsletter full of River facts. Dewey was so grateful for this, he decided to call River's team to thank them for sending it. He had no idea at this time what that phone call would lead to.
One afternoon he arrived home from a doctor's appointment, and his mother had left a note for him - the note said that someone from River's team had telephoned to speak to him and that she had asked them to call back the next day at 4pm. The next day came, he waited for 4pm - but the phone never rang. By 6pm there was still no phone call, and Dewey gave up. But then, at just after 7pm, the call he had been waiting for finally came - although when he picked up the receiver, he had no idea who would be on the other end - it was River himself. Dewey says the conversation went something like this:
"Hello? Hello, is this Dewey.?" "Yes, this is he." "Hi, this is River."
He says he was totally shocked, but thought it must have been the kid next door playing a prank on him.
"Sure it is," Dewey replied "Hello, are you there? This is River Phoenix calling from Los Angeles."
At that moment, Dewey realised it was really River and dropped the phone. He quickly picked it up, took a deep breath and said,
"You'll have to excuse me. I'm a little overwhelmed. What I mean is, I wasn't expecting a call from you." "Well," River answered, "I believe that you never can actually believe anything until it happens."
The conversation continued. They talked about everything - The two even realising they were the same height, weight and shoe size. They spoke in total for just over an hour, which Dewey says was unreal. The end of their conversation went like this:
River asked, "Are you religious?" "Yes, I am," Dewey replied, "Well, God bless you, and remember, I'm praying for you."
Dewey says he will always remember that day. "River cared enough to give me something. I never had a friend, and that made all the difference. I am forever indebted to him, he changed my life. Bless you, River. I will always be thinking of you."
MANY THANKS GO TO DEWEY FOR HIS WONDERFUL STORY
MEETING RIVER DURING THE FILMING OF DOGFIGHT - BY BOB
In the Summer of 1990, I was hired to assist with props and minor special effects for the film Dogfight, featuring Lilly Taylor and River Phoenix, which was filming in Seattle. River and I eventually migrated towards one another as we had many interests in common. Mutually we were both big fans of the English band, XTC. While on the set, and sometime between takes, one of us would sing a line from an XTC song, and the other would sing the next. The rest of the crew was mostly baffled by our spontaneous musical flurries. During lunches, River and I would often go to his trailer to eat, smoke American Spirit cigarettes and fiddle about on guitars. He was a fantastic musician and song writer. With our days off, we would grab some food together, then head to his house to drink a few beers and jam. We spent our time exchanging musical ideas and improvising. We even wrote a couple of songs together.
By the end of the film, River and I had become close. The evening during the wrap party, I was sitting at a table with him and some of the crew. At one point he opened his wallet to pull out some cash for tips or something, and pulled out his U.S. Armed Forces Military identification card that was a prop for the film. I asked if I could look at it. He handed it to me. When I attempted to return it to him, he waived his hand and said, “keep it.”
Over the next couple of years, we kept in touch. The last time I saw him was in 1992, backstage at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco, where I was doing flaming helmets for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That next year I sent him an invitation to my wedding. He responded, saying he could not make it due to his filming schedule. River died on October 31st, 1993. I was married on the same day. I miss him a lot.
MANY THANKS GO TO BOB
CHANCE MEETING WITH RIVER IN TEXAS - BY MICHAEL DORAIN
I met River in person in 1989 when he was visiting friends in Texas. He and his friends came into this club in Austin. It was late at night, but I recognised him, and soon the buzz filled the club that River Phoenix was there. He and his friends sat at a table near the band. Later, I was in in the restroom, and who just happened to come in but River. He was, it appeared, feeling good but not drunk or anything, just relaxed. There I was, face to face with him and not knowing what to say, and he smiled and asked me my name and just started talking to me as if he'd known me all my life. I asked him if he liked Austin and he said yes. He said that he visited as often as he could and that his family had a place there, but he lived somewhere else.
It was a very nice encounter and memory. He seemed to want to know more about me than caring about talking about himself. My memory is a bit foggy after all these years, but I remember that he was such a nice person, and he made me feel like I was the celebrity. I will never forget that. Of course, we only spoke for a few minutes, but it seemed like thirty.
My only regret is that I didn't think to ask him for his autograph. He had a notebook and pen with him, but at the time, I just didn't think about it. It's hard for me to talk about River Phoenix, so many of my feelings are unexplainable, and that fond memory has seemed to escalate since he died.
One thing that struck me was his innocence. He exuded it. I even felt that when I watched him clear across the room. Or maybe because he was so physically beautiful. I feel so strange when I say that to anyone. Just that one encounter with River touched me for a lifetime.
This site does not take credit for the video below - Credit goes to mopidotcom via YouTube Thank you Ken
VARIOUS ARTICLES ON 'MY OWN PRIVATE RIVER'
IF YOU WANT TO SEE JAMES FRANCO'S "MY OWN PRIVATE RIVER," YOU'LL NEED TO HASSLE NEW LINE CINEMA - INDIEWIRE - BY DEVIN LEE FULLER - 20 FEBRUARY 2012
James Franco says he's been obsessed with “My Own Private Idaho” since he was a teenager, which led to “My Own Private River,” a remix of Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho" that puts a greater emphasis on River Phoenix’s performance and inserts a number of the actor's alternate takes and deleted scenes.
“I never wanted this to be seen as in competition with [‘My Own Private Idaho’] or in any way trying to outdo that film,” said Franco at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which screened the film to a packed house of Francophiles and River Phoenix fans at the Walter Reade Theater Sunday night. “I was able to let the camera sit with River a lot longer in this film because ‘My Own Private Idaho’ had been made. This one can be supported by the prior film.”
Here’s a recap of some of Franco’s anecdotes from the Q&A session with Gavin Smith of Film Comment after the screening.
Origins of the film: While promoting “Milk,” Van Sant gave Franco a tour of the locations in “My Own Private Idaho.” Afterward, they spent two days watching the reels from Van Sant’s original shoot. “That to me was like, ‘I have a treasure chest that’s been sitting in storage for almost 20 years,’” said Franco. “To be able to see all of the raw material and takes of what I consider [River’s] best performance was incredible.” Van Sant stated how he might have edited things differently today, and the idea was sparked to recut the film.
On his first edit: “To me, it was like, 20 years later, my favorite American film, my favorite American filmmaker, my favorite actors, every minute should be seen,” said Franco. “There was 25 hours worth of dailies and I made a 12-hour cut.” However, River’s brother Joaquin was uncomfortable with the idea of screening the 12-hour cut, so Franco’s film has only been released in its current 105-minute version.
River’s last scene: Franco revealed that River made for a difficult time shooting the last shot for the film. “River won’t say [his line.] He’s goofing off, doing silly Italian accents, making funny faces and then by take seven, he’s drawing all over the slate,” said Franco. “At first glance it seems like River’s being a brat. Gus told me later he was on the walkie getting really pissed. But finally he said it and that’s a wrap. And they brought out a cake and River went [mimes dropping his face into a cake]. Gus’ interpretation was that River didn’t want filming to end. That was the last take of the best performance of his life. And then he was gone two years later.”
On home video possibilities: Franco said that while he would like more viewers to see “My Own Private River,” a more commercial on-demand or home video release isn't likely at this time. “There is the original movie and not only do I not want to compete with the original movie, but New Line also does not want us to compete with their money,” said Franco.
On the soundtrack: “My Own Private River” features a couple of reworked songs from R.E.M.’s recent album. “After I had the cut, I went to [Michael Stipe] and asked him to do music for it. He never scored a film before,” said Franco. “I went to him because I knew that he and River had been close friends. I wanted as much connection to who River was at that time and I wanted to involve as many people as I could that had known River or were a part of River’s life.”
On his use of close-ups: “In the films that I’ve directed, I use a ton of close-ups,” said Franco. “But when I use a ton of close-ups, I sit on the close-ups. I guess as a filmmaker I figured out that I kind of have an aversion to dialogue. I don’t like a ton of dialogue. […] So by getting in close to the actor and sitting with them, I feel like you allow the audience to be close with them and to understand the character without the character having to talk about how he’s feeling.”
COPYRIGHT - INDIEWIRE
GAGOSIAN GALLERY PRESENTS AN EXHIBITION BY GUS VAN SANT AND JAMES FRANCO - FROM artdaily.org
BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- "Unfinished" features two films, Endless Idaho and My Own Private River, which are collaborations between Van Sant and Franco. After casting Franco in the award-winning film Milk (2008), Van Sant showed him the dailies and other footage that he had shot many years before for My Own Private Idaho (1991), which starred River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as street hustlers in Portland, Oregon. Much of this material did not make it into the final cut, and so Franco decided to fashion it into two new films, riffing off the original title.
For Endless Idaho, Franco edited outtakes, deleted scenes, alternate takes, and behind-the-scenes footage from My Own Private Idaho into a 12-hour film. Endless Idaho provides an unprecedented look into the workaday process of making a movie, from location scouting to repeated takes. Like many of the films of Andy Warhol, a major influence on Van Sant's own auteur style, it is a provocative, often riveting blend of documentary and fiction. Interviews with actual hustlers who played secondary characters in My Own Private Idaho are intercut with shots of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves improvising and refining their performances under the direction of Van Sant and his crew. The music for Endless Idaho was composed by Luke Paquin and Tim O'Keefe. By contrast, My Own Private River consists largely of shots of Phoenix 's character, Mike, woven into a compelling portrait. Franco describes being mesmerized by Phoenix 's "uninhibited acting" in this unreleased footage, and his edit captures the gifted actor at his most emotionally expressive and physically dynamic. The score is by Michael Stipe, who is an art school drop-out.
The films are accompanied by eight works on paper by Van Sant, which translate his acute directorial sensitivity with regard to human nuance and gesture in film into the immediacy of watercolor. With the same subtle powers of observation that distinguish his filmmaking, he has created portraits of young men who recall characters in My Own Private Idaho -- defiant, circumspect, and devil-may-care insouciants. Working from photographic images found on the internet, Van Sant has created vivid impressions of his incidental icons, employing brushwork that alternates broad, limpid strokes with an assiduous attention to detail and a varied palette of both washed out tones and dense, electric hues.
Gus Van Sant was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1952. He obtained a BA from the Rhode Island School of Design where he studied painting and cinema. Best known for his work as an award-winning director, he has also exhibited his art at galleries and public institutions including Jamison-Thomas Gallery, Portland, PDX Gallery, Portland, and The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.
James Franco was born in Palo Alto, California in 1978. He obtained a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles and an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. He is currently enrolled in the Digital Media Department at the Rhode Island School of Design. An acclaimed actor, Franco is also actively engaged in performance art, painting, video, and installation art. He has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Clocktower Gallery, New York, and Peres Projects, Berlin.
COPYRIGHT - ARTDAILY
JAMES FRANCO BRINGS RIVER PHOENIX BACK TO LIFE - FROM the guardian.com - 7 MARCH 2011
Eighteen years after his death, unseen footage of the My Own Private Idaho star has been crafted into a compelling new film.
On the night James Franco hosted the Oscars, the show featured a segment in which veteran Oscars host Bob Hope was digitally brought back to life to compere one more time. It typified an Academy Awards show this year that rather failed to reconcile its desire to appeal to younger audiences with its need to remain reverential to its legacy.
Getting much less attention not far from the Kodak theatre, in Beverly Hills, was a gallery exhibition called Unfinished, where just two days prior to Oscar night Franco had presided over the rebirth of another fallen star. Working with director Gus van Sant, Franco launched a powerful installation of video art, cutting a 100-minute film full of unseen footage of River Phoenix from the dailies of Van Sant's modern day classic My Own Private Idaho.
Showing alongside a series of watercolours by Van Sant designed to recall the colourful cast of hip and troubled teenagers that populated the 1991 release, which also starred Keanu Reeves, Franco's film is by far the more interesting work. Through thick, ragged curtains, which hang from the gallery's high ceilings, the film's viewing space is dotted with threadbare sofas, folding chairs and an instant coffee dispenser.
It's decidedly more support group than cinema, but as Franco's piece, set to a score by REM's Michael Stipe, plays on a loop on the wall, there's something rather comforting about the oddly therapeutic setting.
River Phoenix died of an overdose just two years after making Idaho, leaving behind a powerful legacy of performance which included Stand By Me, The Mosquito Coast and an Oscar-nominated turn in Running on Empty. But as the drug-taking, narcoleptic street hustler Mike Waters in My Own Private Idaho, Phoenix delivered the gutsiest performance of his career and was rewarded with an Independent Spirit award for best male lead.
Franco calls his film My Own Private River and presents it as his study of the performance of one of the most talented young actors of the 80s and 90s. Van Sant shot hours of footage of his actors doing little more than living out their characters' lives, and this forms the backbone of Franco's re-edit. There's a basic structure, as we follow Mike Waters around Portland, Oregon, shopping at a grocery store, scoring drugs and having sex with clients, but there's no real narrative on offer.
The footage is set to its raw soundtrack, so what dialogue there is tends to be muffled or entirely inaudible, and it's punctuated with meditative scenes in which very little happens at all. The piece isn't about an actor translating a script, but rather an actor displaying natural instinct and real nuance for his craft, and it's made all the more powerful by the knowledge of what happened next in his life.
Nearly 20 years after his death, it's strange to see so much "new" material of Phoenix. The gallery advises that of course it's not necessary to watch all of Franco's film in one sitting and that it's possible to dip in and out, yet it's testament to Phoenix's mastery of his craft that the film proves compelling enough to keep watching. So clear is Phoenix's intent that, even without a script or story, his character's nature is immediately evident.
Franco's multi-stringed bow runs the gamut of creativity from directing to writing, poetry and performance art. His latest endeavour, which runs at the Gagosian gallery in Beverly Hills until 9 April, suggests that acting will always be his primary interest. It's a fascinating meditation on the craft – an actor's view of acting – through the performance of one who still had so much to offer when tragedy struck.
His Oscars producers might have needed digital help to bring Bob Hope back to the stage, but Franco clearly knows just where to look to explore the enduring legacy of cinema without resorting to such cheap trickery.
SLATER BRADLEY AND ED LACHMAN: SHADOW - WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART: 28 OCTOBER 2010 - 10 APRIL 2011
Artists have long engaged with the mythology of Hollywood, creating a hybrid of art and cinema that has become an important strand of contemporary art. Shadow (2010), a video installation by Slater Bradley in collaboration with Academy Award–nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman, takes as its inspiration the unfinished Hollywood film Dark Blood (1993) for which Lachman was the cinematographer. In the film, River Phoenix plays a disturbed, young, half–Navajo widower who lives like a hermit near a nuclear testing site in the Nevada desert, waiting for the apocalypse and making kachina dolls that he believes have magic powers. Phoenix’s character’s wife died from radiation poisoning from the site. A married couple becomes stranded when their car breaks down in the desert and they are rescued by the widower, who falls in love with the woman. The film progresses to a dramatic ending in which the young man dies, but because of Phoenix’s own untimely death, the final scenes were never filmed.
Based on Lachman’s memories and impressions of filming Dark Blood seventeen years prior, Shadow constructs a prologue that imagines the widower’s life just before he meets the couple. Although it contains references to what takes place in the original film (now the future) and is haunted by Phoenix’s ghostly presence, major elements of the original—the couple, the car breaking down, the attraction of the widower to the woman—do not appear in Bradley and Lachman’s film, and parts of their story—the little girl, the deserted house, the bar—do not appear in the original. The two narratives are woven together by threads of fact and fiction whose boundaries are never made clear. The bar in Shadow was the one frequented by Phoenix while filming the original movie, for example, and the location, near the Capitol Reef in Utah, is the same as in Dark Blood. The photographs found by the widower in the prologue were discovered by chance by Lachman and Bradley in the bar. They were taken in 1993 and show Lachman and Phoenix at work on Dark Blood. In a further twist, Ben Brock, who plays Phoenix as the widower, bears an uncanny resemblance to Slater Bradley. Shadow thus becomes a triple portrait of the actor, the cinematographer, and the artist, transforming a conventional cinematic narrative into a labyrinthine tale that blurs the lines between illusion and reality, past and future.
During the shooting of the uncompleted film Dark Blood, Ed Lachman, the film's cinematographer, took a number of black-and-white Polaroid photographs as exposure checks, including this image of River acting in the deathbed scene that was to have occurred at the end of the film.
Installation View - Whitney Museum of American Art. Photographs by Bill Orcutt.
DOGFIGHT CASTING CALL - 13 October 2017 - By Thom Dibdin - AllEdinburghTheatre.com
Junior amateur musicals company Shoogly Peg Productions, has put out an open call for its February 2018 production of Pasek and Paul’s 2012 musical, Dogfight. The company is looking to recruit new members for the production. It will be the Scottish premiere of the show which is adapted from the 1991 movie staring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor.
The company is holding auditions on Wednesdays 18 and 25 of October, at St Thomas of Aquins High School. Sign-up for auditions is through the link below and closes at 10pm on Tuesday 17 October 2017.
Dogfight is set on November 21, 1963 (the night before Kennedy’s assassination) in San Francisco where three young marines are enjoying their last 24 hours of freedom before flying out to the small but growing conflict in South East Asia.
The three are looking for a night of debauchery, partying and maybe a little trouble. But when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of compassion.
Adapted from the film directed by Nancy Savoca, it has a book by Peter Duchan, with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the lyrics for the songs in La La Land. Due to the nature of the content of the show the company is opening the auditions to over 16s only, although younger members might be considered with parental permission. The production will be staged at the end of February 2018, with exact dates and venue to be confirmed.
Pasek & Paul's Original 2012 Production
Second Stage Theatre - 305 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036 Opened - July 16 2012 Closed - Unknown
Featuring music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello.
Cast and Characters
Lindsay Mendez - Rose Fenny Derek Klena - Eddie Birdlace Annaleigh Ashford - Marcy/Ensemble Josh Segarra - Boland Nick Blaemire - Bernstein Becca Ayers - Mrs. Fenny/Ensemble Steven Booth - Gibbs Adam Halpin - Marine F. Michael Haynie - Marine Dierde Friel - Prostitute/Ensemble
"Prelude: Take Me Back" - Rose, Eddie and Company "Some Kinda Time" - Eddie and the Marines "We Three Bees" - Eddie, Boland, and Bernstein "Hey Good Lookin" - The Marines and Girls "Come to a Party" - Eddie and Rose "Nothing Short of Wonderful" - Rose "Come to a Party (Reprise)" - Rose, Marcy, Eddie and the Marines "That Face" - Singer and the Marines "Dogfight" - Marcy and Rose "Pretty Funny" - Rose
"Hometown Hero's Ticker Tape Parade" - Eddie, Bernstein and the Marines "First Date/Last Night" - Rose and Eddie "Before It's Over" - Rose "Give Way" - Rose and Company "Some Kinda Time (Reprise)" - Eddie, Boland and the Marines "Come Back" - Eddie "Finale: Take Me Back" - Rose, Eddie and Company
Drama Desk Awards - 2013 - Outstanding Actress in a Musical - Lindsay Mendez
Drama League Awards - 2013 - Distinguished Performance Award - Lindsay Mendez
Drama League Awards - 2013 - Distinguished Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical
Outer Critics Circle Awards - 2013 - Outstanding Actress in a Musical - Lindsay Mendez
Outer Critics Circle Awards - 2013 - Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Outer Critics Circle Awards - 2013 - Outstanding Lighting Design - Paul Gallo
Outer Critics Circle Awards - 2013 - Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
Outer Critics Circle Awards - 2013 - Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Culture Talks - Javier Peres | Conversations with leading cultural figures by John-Paul Pryor
January 9, 2012
The art world’s arch-maverick tastemaker Javier Peres discovered, exhibited and represented some of the most influential and notorious artists of the last decade, and he garnered a reputation as the hardest partying curator ever to have assailed the international art scene along the way. Terence Koh, Dan Colen, Bruce LaBruce and the late Dash Snow are just a few of the many who passed through the near-legendary Peres Projects. More recently, the international dealer presented the debut solo show of James Franco at his gallery in Berlin and the actor-cum-artist has a small cameo role of sorts in Peres’s latest cultural offensive – his very own debut show at Berlin’s Grimmuseum. This month, Peres unveils a deeply personal series of portraits of the early 90s Hollywood icon River Phoenix – a young man whose life was cut tragically short by a party lifestyle that witnessed him overdose on a speedball outside Johnny Depp’s infamous Viper Rooms. Considering the subject matter, perhaps the most surprising thing about this series of deliberately repetitive representations of the star – entitled One Of Ours – is their depth of tenderness and, to some degree, their classical solemnity, which recalls the gravitas of religious painting. Here, the artist talks to AnOther about his journey from curator to artist and why we so often destroy those things we admire.
What did River Phoenix represent to you as a young man, and what led you to create this series?
In the spring of 2010, I found myself spending a lot of time alone in my apartment in Berlin and I began to think a lot about my past – where I had been and how I ended up where I was. Basically, I was reflecting on the life I had lived but also thinking about the life I could have lived. It took me back to a certain place, and in that place was this ideal – the ideal of life as a young man. From there, River just popped into my head and I began to look for the right images of him to portray in a series of portraits. I wanted them to have a certain, almost religious quality about them because I wanted to embark on playing with the same image over and over in the way that in religious art, the same saint or god is depicted over and over – each time resulting in a new and different image, but always based on the same person or idea. I wanted to think about the idea of someone like River, because I don´t really see these works being about one person per se – they could have been portraits of anyone that took me back to a particular period of my life.
Looking back on your life, can you recall the very first images that excited you and set you out on your path in the art world?
Memories are really important to me, especially because I usually feel like my head is one big empty world – one that I need to explore to see what I can find in there. Art has always been at the centre of my life – it has always been the great escape and the land of possibilities; the land of milk and honey. My life has been filled with lots of high and lows, and this project of making art under my own name and showing it, well, it´s just another part of these highs and lows for me. I really have no idea if I see it as a high or a low, but I do know that I felt like it was something I needed to do, so here I am.
To what degree would you agree with the notion that we all paint ourselves in the portraits of others?
These portraits are absolutely self-portraits in their own right, I think that is what made me want to make them to begin with – use someone else as the subject matter, so that I could talk about myself, without ever really have to talk about myself at all – sort of like lying to your therapist (laughs). But on a more serious note, I am excited to show these works, and am also excited to see how people react to them.
Is there a residue of Phoenix onscreen that has shaped or become integral to your identity? To what degree do you think our identities are shaped by the cultural stimuli we engage with (such as a film like My Own Private Idaho) and to what degree is that arbitrary?
When it comes to the influence of television and films, and Hollywood in general, I think that they are really influential – they have this huge impact on the entire globe. I’m fascinated by that, and how it plays out in my life because I´m not exempt from those influences. I think that making these paintings is in part my attempt to look at both the good and the bad influences in a new and different light and to reflect on what each means to me now, and also to think about the things I have and haven't done because of those influences.
What is the significance of painting on linen – does the linen add a material fragility? Is there a sense here of the fragility of human life?
The fragility of human life is a topic that has been at the forefront of my thinking this past year, and I think that is probably why I decided to make this series of works using more classical materials and mediums, but this all came to me pretty much unconsciously.
Whose portraiture do you most admire?
The artist that has always captured my imagination, and that still continues to do so, is Albrecht Dürer, his portraits are the most amazing things in the world to me, every time I see one of self portraits I think I can die right there and then because I have seen it all, and I have felt it all. They are so powerful!
This work is much less extreme – for want of a better word – than that of many of the artists you have represented... Why are you drawn to the extreme when your own aesthetic feels more as if it is reaching for the sublime and poetic? Would that be a fair reading of these works?
I think that is a fair reading of these works, but I never really thought of the works that I was drawn to in the last decade as being extreme. I think a lot of people did, but I never really understood why. I always felt I showed artists who explored themes central to their lives – personal themes – and that they were, and still are, very poetic in their practices. I think that I am doing the same thing – I’m reflecting on my own life, my own experience and memories, and that has led me to making these portraits.
The show is to be presented with a film by James Franco and Gus Van Sant called My Own Private River... How did that come together?
James and Gus presented My Own Private River in Beverly Hills at the Gagosian gallery at the same time as I was starting to think about making my paintings, so it was this moment where what I was thinking about, and what they were showing connected. Having shown James last year, I just asked him if I could show their film at the same time as I had my show, I thought it would be a nice tie-in to my project.
Finally, what do you think about the spectacle of celebrity?
It doesn´t particularly interest me, but my impression of the spectacle that surrounds people who enter the limelight is that, like everyone else, they want to have a good life. We look to them as having it all, while we have so little, which makes us both want to be them, and want to destroy them.
“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years ago that we lost this sweet amazing soul. I photographed River Phoenix at his family home in Gainesville Florida for Details Magazine. After the shoot we went for a beer and shot some pool. When I returned home to New York there was a message on my answering machine thanking me for the shoot. A true gentleman.”
Photographer John Huba about River
I've had the following pictures of River for a long time, (Visions Of Rio Gallery - River Jude Phoenix.) I know they were taken by John Huba. They could be from the same photoshoot, but I'm not sure. (I have a mug with one of these pictures on it, that I had done years ago)
I have been given permission to post this tribute - It was written by Lars Beckerman (pseudonym) - He played the role of 'Fector' in the movie, Dogfight. There is a link to the original blog post at the end of the text. Many thanks to Lars for bringing his wonderful tribute to my attention, and for allowing me to share it with all of you.
A River Runs Through Us
A Tribute By Lars Beckerman - 31 October 2010
It’s been 20 years since I received one of the most exciting phone calls of my acting career. I had only been in Los Angeles for three years but had already had enough early success to call myself a “working actor” – ok, a “semi-working actor.” Mostly big dumb football player roles on overwritten network sitcoms, with a few residual-generating national television commercials sprinkled in (my first was a Miller Lite spot with Bob Uecker – pretty cool). I stuffed Urkel into a trash can, got tutored by Lisa Rinna, and even helped a couple of likeminded dopplegangers pound on Doogie Howser – trust me, he had it coming! That last one earned me the credit “Gorilla #2.” Life was good – I was working – but the roles were not all that challenging.
So when my agent called and told me that legendary casting director Marion Dougherty had just phoned up and made an offer for me to play a knucklehead Marine in an exciting new Warner Brothers film to be directed by Nancy Savoca, I was on cloud nine, ten, and eleven.
I take inventory a lot. Maybe no more than anyone else, but I think it’s a strength to have a built-in perspective button that you push periodically to not only gauge progress but to connect dots and see how and why opportunities come along. I regularly look back on this gig, this role on what ultimately became not much more than “a little film” called Dogfight. A film the studio would ultimately bury and give minimal publicity/distribution to, but has proven to have legs, gaining steam over the years, possibly even surpassing what is known in movie vernacular as a “cult classic.” I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone that actually saw Dogfightthat didn’t like it – and like it a lot.
We shot in Seattle and it was my first glimpse of the Emerald City. What a great town, so many poignant memories. My brother lives there now and recently married a lovely native so there will be many more reasons to stroll Pike Place Market and try my thumbs at salmon catching. To get out on Peuget Sound and marvel at the panorama. His wife is four months pregnant so I will soon have a little one to bounce on my knee and create a whole new batch of nostalgic iphone moments.
But what Seattle will always be for me is a glorious rush of emotionally rich visuals and anecdotes of my first real acting role on a Warner Brothers picture that would star Lili Taylor and River Phoenix.
Nancy Savoca had made a name for herself the year before with a super sweet romantic comedy called True Love (1989), which I immediately rented and adored. She and her husband, producer Richard Guay, would be waiting for me in Seattle.
Lili Taylor had jumped off the screen in Mystic Pizza (1988) and Say Anything (1989). She was a budding star and universally praised as unusually talented and a dream to work with. I would meet her soon in Seattle.
Richard Pannebianco, Mitchell Whitfield, and Anthony Clark had been cast as three of what the script referred to as “The Four Bees,” and they were waiting for me in Seattle too, having arrived earlier for some boot camp acting preparation to be led by the go-to military expert/advisor-turned actor Dale Dye (Band of Brothers, Born on the 4th of July, Saving Private Ryan).
We all flew up to Seattle from Los Angeles, excited to work on this promising new film. We were all in Seattle for one reason. River Phoenix had agreed to be in the picture.
At age 2o, River Phoenix was not only above the title, he was on the extremely short list of actors who could get a film made by signing on the dotted line. River splashed on the scene in Rob Reiner’s wonderful coming of age film Stand By Me (1986), and then dug in to stay with such films as The Mosquito Coast (’86), Little Nikita (’88), and an Oscar nominated performance in Running On Empty (’88), my personal favorite. What none of us knew during this meteoric and brilliant rise was just how short this talented and vulnerable young actor would stay.
Dogfightis a relatively unconventional love story, part boy meets girl, part coming of age, very somber and ambiguous in its conclusion. The setup of the tale is an apparent Marine tradition (according to screenwriter Bob Comfort) of descending upon a city on leave and commencing to compete with one another on a quest to see which private can hit the streets and persuade the “ugliest” girl to join him for a night of drinks and dancing, eventually to parade the poor girls in front of a panel of judges in what they called a “dogfight.” Sophomoric at best, misogynistic to say the least. To say, however, that the theme of this smart and sensitive film is simply “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is to undercut the lessons that Taylor’s ‘Rose’ and Phoenix’s ‘Birdlace’ learn in their night on the town.
‘Rose’ is a folk song singing anti-war innocent who learns the hard way that boys can have not only bad intentions but can be downright brutal in their objectification of the softer sex. But she’s quick on her feet when the rubber hits the road and not only stands up for herself but champions all of the young gals who have been subjected to the contest. “You are a cruel, heartless, ignorant creep. If I were a man I would beat you to a pulp. Who gave you the right to treat people like this?” Many critics thought Lili Taylor deserved an Oscar nomination for her work in Dogfight. I agreed with them.
Here’s where your trusted reviewer has to admit to being wrong those many years ago. As excited as I was to be working with River, I thought he was miscast as ‘Eddie Birdlace,’ the foul-mouthed, chainsmoking, rough around the edges Marine. I was flat-out wrong.
River was an absolute pleasure to work with and to be around. He bought a banged up Volvo wagon (his weekly per diem matched my weekly salary!) and chauffeured all his fellow “Bees” and me around town when we had days off. He picked up dinner tabs and made life at the Warwick hotel amusing and unpredictable. One night he and his younger brother, then known to all of us as Leaf (now Joaquin), showed up with motorized toy speedboats that we proceeded to take down to the hotel pool and put to the test. If my memory serves, Rob Lowe was in the vicinity (jacuzzi), dating – and eventually marrying – our makeup woman at the time – but I digress.
River was thoughtful and sweet, not an ounce of territorial actor neurosis, a rare quality. He was also pure as the driven snow, a quality that scrambles like an ant down a drain in a stiff rain in Tinseltown.
River Jude Bottom was born in Madras, Oregon to counter-culture parents who moved often, including a stay in Venezuela under the spell of the controversial Church of God cult. It was in South America that River and his younger brother, Leaf, encouraged the family to go vegan after witnessing the way local fishermen treated their prey. Pretty amazing awareness and conviction for children so young. But these were not your average children and this was not your average family. The Bottoms moved to Los Angeles in 1979 and changed their last name to ‘Phoenix,’ as in the mythical bird that rises up from its own ashes and starts a new beginning.
River’s parents wanted their children in show biz and the family set to making it happen, dropping the kids on the asphalt of west L.A. to sing for their supper and perhaps be discovered…I guess.
I reference all of this (easily found on Wikipedia) not to point fingers, cast blame or dispersion, but to emphasize the point of my tribute to this unique and tragic fallen actor who I have such fond memories of.
River’s story is not just a cautionary tale of the trappings and hedonistic excess of Hollywood and stardom. His story is about abandoning who you are in search of someone you are not. Of peer pressure and the insanity of wanting to belong. Or maybe the gut wrenching insanity of feeling the need to numb the senses once your innocence has been shattered and idealism has taken the far back seat to cynicism.
While I may have been wrong about the choice to cast River Phoenix in Dogfight, his performance in the film is there for all to see and it is solid, I was correct in my estimation that River the young man was a far cry from ‘Birdlace,’ the rank and file soldier. As far as I could tell, although this was not ever a topic of discussion, River was not a Method actor, meaning his acting process did not require him to actually live the experiences and emotions necessary to fill out his character. Personally speaking, the Method is a tough row to hoe, not just for the actor but for the entire crew, not to mention his or her family. Having said that, River’s approach to creating ‘Birdlace’ appeared to be rooted at least partially in the Method. He smoked a lot and at dinner drank a lot. And by “a lot” I mean a couple of glasses of red wine, the transformation so obvious to me, watching him become near cross-eyed from the alcohol while trying to maintain conversations. Never belligerent or rude in the least. Just quickly drunk and void of his usual sweet charm.
Fast forward less than a year later and imagine the same ‘technique’ applied to his character in Gus Van Sant’s disturbing My Own Private Idaho (1991), and it would not take a top flight detective to connect the dots that the amazingly sweet and talented and once ‘oh-so-pure’ River Phoenix was headed for a train wreck.
From accounts I have heard over the past couple of decades, My Own Private Idaho was a party. How could it not be? Based loosely on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, the film centers on a pair of teen runaways turned male prostitutes (Phoenix and Keanu Reeves), and also starred Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), James Russo, and William Richert. The setting, the themes and subject matter, the relationships. If what I witnessed in Seattle a year earlier was any indication of how River the actor was beginning to poison River the man, then this was a project River’s reps should have perhaps had the wisdom to pass on. Easier said than done. I’m not judging here, just playing monday morning quarterback with a heavy heart.
River was so special. Not just a damn good actor, which he was, but a significantly thoughtful and introspectively poetic young man. He loved music and animals. From what I could tell in my short time spent around him, he loved people and might even have loved acting. Hard to tell sometimes if the actors you line up across from in front of the camera or on stage really love what they’re doing. I always give my fellow actors the benefit of the doubt that they enjoy what they’re doing as much as I do, not just the money or the fame, but the process and the craft. I think River loved acting. The camera sure loved him. My first day on the set with River in the filming of Dogfight was a challenging one. It was my character’s introduction scene and it took place on a military transport bus. So all of the coverage shot within the bus, my closeup and medium shot, as well as those of the “four bees” interviewing me for the “dogfight,” were done in very close quarters as the bus made continuous loops on a remote section of a Washington state highway. Extremely time-consuming, at times painfully uncomfortable, requiring maximum patience from all involved, the camera department and actors in particular. As is always the case on a show or film, the star gets his shots accomplished first (presumably while he/she is fresh, whatever), and then there is a pecking order in terms of the shot list. Suffice it to say, turning the camera around and aiming it at my mug was last on the list and would be executed long after lunch and long after the “fun” of being on that bus had worn off.
Common courtesy among actors is to continue working the scene in character and on point even when you are off camera. Common sense tells us that the bigger star the harder this unwritten rule is to obey.
With naps and phone calls on everyone’s minds, it was pretty clear the “four bees” did not really want to climb back on to that bus to get my coverage. I heard the grumbling, it was obvious, didn’t make me that happy to know I was going to have to play the scene to stand ins, but I was prepared to take my lumps and make it work. But it didn’t go down that way and I’ve never forgotten how it did.
When the vote was put to River whether or not to get back on the bus for a dozen more freeway loops, he didn’t hesitate. Never would have crossed his mind to leave me hanging. It was the right thing to do and he knew it. We were all in it together.
River died of a drug overdose on a cold asphalt sidewalk outside of a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Halloween night, 1993. The cocktail of narcotics found in his blood staggers the mind and are not worth mentioning here cuz it makes me so mad and still so sad.
I have teenaged sons and I am all too aware of the temptations and seductions thrust upon them by mass media, pop culture, and peer pressure. It exists everywhere but certainly is magnified in Los Angeles, a city that far too often fails to live up to its Spanish translation. But I once knew an Angel named River who danced and sang and acted so magically. His gift was undeniable and his family’s loss unimaginable. When I really need a River Phoenix fix I pop in Running On Empty and dial up the final scene. Some times I’m Judd Hirsch telling his son to “take your bike out of the back of the truck…and get on it. Yer on your own now, kid – go out there and make a difference.” Other times I’m young River standing speechless, both in awe of the sacrifice and generosity of his parents’ willingness to let him go and also the absolute sadness of being let go. I can’t hear James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” without thinking of that scene. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about River Phoenix and how he insisted those guys get back on the bus and work off camera for their fellow actor. I like that expression – my fellow actor. I liked River a lot. He was my fellow actor.
River - Taken by French photographer, Brigitte Lacombe during the filming of Silent Tongue - New Mexico, 1992. The photos were included in an article in the UK edition of Esquire on the release of Brigitte Lacombe's book, Cinema/Theater.
"It's the saddest thing, but I didn't really know him. I think of Gulliver when I see this picture. It was his idea to lie on the ground. There were a lot of bones in that field and he just took one and put it on as a collar."..... Brigitte Lacombe
My Own Private River Phoenix (Hollywood Fringe 2018)
As a little girl in Japan, Ai wanted to move to America to marry her crush, River Phoenix. Unfortunately he died before she even made it across the Pacific. However, Ai was determined to find her own River Phoenix. She convinced her strict Japanese father that she was not submissive enough to marry a Japanese man, so she had to go to America. Her father made her promise three things: No religion, No gun, No drugs . Written, Produced and Performed by Ai Yoshihara Directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson
My Own Private River Phoenix was accepted and performed at Los Angeles Women’s theater Festival two years in a row.
Friday, June 1st 2018 at 10 pm Monday, June 18th 2018 at 7:30 pm Sunday, June 24th 2018 at 4:30 pm 40-minute, Ages 15+
WHERE: Studio C – 6448 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood CA 90038
Follow Ai on:
Instagram: @Aiyoshihara3 Twitter: @AiYoshihara Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AiYoshihara4 For press comps, photos, and additional information, please contact:
Ai Yoshihara at (818) 287-1403 or YoshiTheAi@gmail.com
NOTICE: Copyright items on this site will be removed on request. The information is placed here for private use and for personal interest only. This is not (and never will be) a commercial or profit-making site - It is a fan-site which is owned and run by a fan - for other fans to enjoy. This site is also not affiliated with anyone connected to River