Samantha Mathis on Night River Phoenix Died: ‘Something Was Wrong’

“He was high in a way that made me feel uncomfortable,” actress tells The Guardian

Next week is the 25th anniversary of actor River Phoenix’s untimely death. The “Stand By Me” star was just 23 when he died of a drug overdose after a night out at Hollywood’s Viper Room nightclub — owned then by fellow actor Johnny Depp.

His girlfriend at the time was actress Samantha Mathis, who was by Phoenix’s side that fateful night in late October 1993. She spoke about it with British paper The Guardian, which reported Thursday that it’s the first time she’s recounted the events that led to Phoenix’s passing to any media member in the past 25 years.

“I knew something was wrong that night, something I didn’t understand,” Mathis, who co-starred with Phoenix in 1993’s “The Thing Called Love,” said. “I didn’t see anyone doing drugs but he was high in a way that made me feel uncomfortable — I was in way over my head.”

Mathis said the stop at the Viper Room was initially supposed to be quick — there to drop off his younger siblings, sister Rain and brother Joaquin. “But when we arrived he said to me, ‘Oh, there are some people playing music tonight in the club who want me to play with them — that’s Okay, right?'”

The actress, now 48, noted her unease with the situation, adding, “Forty-five minutes later, he was dead.”

Even though Mathis observed Phoenix inebriated that night, she said, “The heroin that killed him didn’t happen until he was in the Viper Room.”

She said she went to the bathroom before a club bouncer pushed Phoenix out of the club. “I have my suspicions about what was going on, but I didn’t see anything,” she told The Guardian. She met up with him only to see him collapse and Joaquin Phoenix call 9-1-1.

“I think if River was still here, I think he’d be acting, directing, saving the environment, just living and hanging out,” she said. “Oh gosh, wouldn’t that be nice?”

Mathis shared more memories of her relationship with Phoenix. Read them here.