He would have turned 40 today. Unfortunately, River Phoenix died in 1993 of a drug overdose outside LA's Viper Room as Johnny Depp performed on stage inside. Not just because it's his birthday, and a significant one at that, we are missing the forever-young actor this August and wondering what he might have been doing lately had he lived. Would he have any involvement with brother Joaquin's enigmatic retirement and subsequent rap career, or at least appear in the (faux?) documentary I'm Still Here? What would he have thought of Dinner with Schmucks, which reminds me of his underrated drama Dogfight? Might he have been able to take over the Indiana Jones franchise so we didn't get the old-man version we're currently stuck with?
And if not that, what other series would he be starring in now? You know he would have been another Depp or Robert Downey Jr., putting more talent into a franchise that didn't seem to deserve him at first. Could he have been a superhero? Or, would he have focused more on dramatic roles and easily won an Oscar or four after losing that nomination for Running on Empty? Given that Phoenix showed us remarkable talent so early and had diverse roles in sci-fi, westerns, action-adventure, drama, black comedy, coming of age, spy caper and gay modernizations of Shakespeare (My Own Private Idaho). And he seemed to get along with a number of his collaborators, many of whom, like Sidney Poitier, Keanu Reeves and Dermot Mulroney (and sort of Harrison Ford) he worked with more than once.