This week HitFix is revisiting some of the key turning points in recent entertainment history and considering what would have happened if history had turned a bit differently. What if...?
There's a question I've turned over in my head a thousand times, and while there are music fans who I'm sure have very strong feelings about the tragic deaths of artists whose work was cut short, as a film fan and as someone who got hooked on movies in the '70s, who came of age in the '80s, and who moved to Hollywood just as the '90s kicked off, there is one question that looms largest for me, one that I feel strongly about as my first pick. If we're trying to imagine a world we wish had happened, this is question number one for me…
What if River Phoenix had lived?
WHEN WAS IT?
The night of October 31, 1993 still seems unreal to me, especially the way the news spread that River Phoenix had collapsed on the sidewalk outside the Viper Room. Living in LA, that conjured such a specific image, and it seemed offensive to think of someone as gifted as Phoenix suddenly simply not being there anymore. As a fan of his work, I was excited by each new film, knowing full well that we were still just seeing the start of what he could do. He managed to be casually great in a series of films, and I felt like we were seeing the warm-up to a huge adult career. And then... suddenly... gone.