‘Under The Influence’: Heath Ledger, River Phoenix Hollywood Drug Deaths Examined On Reelz

Under the Influence on the ReelzChannel will investigate what drove actors Heath Ledger and River Phoenix over the edge. The ReelzChannel documentary takes a look at celebrity deaths and the negative influences behind them. On Under the Influence, experts and associates will give commentary.

When a celebrity dies, it makes news headlines all over the nation. The deaths of Hollywood stars River Phoenix and Heath Ledger were no different. Twenty-eight-year-old Ledger was found dead in his apartment in 2008. Phoenix died in 1993 at the age of 23. The cause of death for both stars was drug intoxication.

Under the Influence on ReelzChannel will follow the negative path their lives took before the tragic end. Once the spotlight shines upon a star, it can be overwhelming. Heath Ledger had a hard time dealing with that spotlight. His career exploded when the golden-haired hunk made his debut in Brokeback Mountain, a movie about two gay cowboys.

The attention from fans and the media had a hand in his depression and stress, associates say. Some said they suspected that the handsome star suffered from panic or anxiety disorder. He often seemed uncomfortable in interviews.

Heath Ledger’s life took a downward turn after he took on the role of The Joker in the movie The Dark Knight. As a method actor, the role consumed him, leaving young Heath emotionally and mentally exhausted. He could not sleep, and before long, the star began taking sleeping pills. It wasn’t long before his life spiraled out of control. The situation worsened after he separated from the love of his life, actress and Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams.

Like Heath Ledger, River Phoenix took his acting roles seriously, and he was also troubled and consumed by the limelight. When his addiction to drugs became apparent to friends, they tried desperately to help him. According to Vanity Fair, Dan Aykroyd issued a warning to his famous friend. A similar story was told in Marie Claire magazine, which stated that Jack Nicholson had warned Heath Ledger about taking on the role of The Joker.

In addition to drugs, Reelz’s Under the Influence also looks at how bad association and alcohol can lead to the death of many Hollywood celebrities.

The premiere of Under the Influence airs tonight at 9 p.m. on ReelzChannel. Saturday, ReelzChannel will air the case of teen killer Jake Evans on the show Copycat Killers.


[Featured Image by Michael Caulfield/AP Images]