NME Festival blog: Leonardo DiCaprio reflects on seeing River Phoenix on the night he died


The star died from a drug overdose in 1993

Leonardo DiCaprio has reflected on seeing River Phoenix on the night the actor died in a new interview.

Phoenix died after suffering a drug overdose at infamous Los Angeles club The Viper Room on October 30, 1993. He was 23 years old at the time.

In an interview with Esquire, DiCaprio, his Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood co-star Brad Pitt, and director Quentin Tarantino were asked what “six degrees of weirdness” they have in Hollywood. The star replied: “I have one – one of the most ominous and sad ones.”

DiCaprio explained that he had grown up “revering” Phoenix as “the greatest actor of my generation, describing getting to shake his hand as “all I ever wanted.” On the night the Phoenix died, the Oscar winner found himself at the same party as him in Silverlake.

“I saw him walk up a flight of stairs,” he said. “It was almost like something you would see in Vertigo because I saw there was something in his face. I’d never met him – always wanted to meet him, always wanted to just have an encounter with him – and he was walking toward me, and I kind of froze. And then the crowd got in my way, and I looked back and he was gone. I walked back up the stairs and back down, and I was like, ‘Where did he go?’”

Shortly after, Phoenix died at the Viper Room. “I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s this existential thing where I felt like… he disappeared in front of my very eyes, and the tragedy that I felt afterward of having lost this great influence for me and all of my friends,” DiCaprio said.

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood arrives in cinemas on August 14, 2019. In a five-star review, NME said: “It would be wrong to declare OUAT…IH to be quite so perfectly formed as Pulp Fiction, but there is no doubt that this is his most well-rounded and satisfying work since. The adrenaline rush of the final third resembles all that is special about Tarantino – audacious, brazen and impossibly thrilling.”



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