Leonardo DiCaprio Recalls Seeing River Phoenix Hours Before He Died

Leonardo DiCaprio attends the screening of "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2019 in Cannes, France.
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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio revealed in a new interview that he last saw River Phoenix, an actor with one of the greatest futures in his generation, just hours before he died in 1993, and it was an experience he would never forget.

Phoenix, the star of Stand By Me, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Running on Empty, and I Love You to Death to name a few of his most iconic films, died tragically at the age of 23-years-old.

In the interview, DiCaprio noted that he was a huge fan of Phoenix and called him “the great actor of my generation.” He also said that as a young actor, all he wanted to do was shake his hand.

DiCaprio told Esquire Magazine that he almost got the opportunity one night while attending a Hollywood party.

“I saw there was something in his face, and I’d never met him — always wanted to meet him, always wanted to just have an encounter with him,” revealed the actor.

DiCaprio truly wanted to meet the actor. He asked around and found out that Phoenix was on his way to The Viper Room, a Hollywood hotspot for music and mingling. As of 2018, NME reported that the club, once owned by Johnny Depp, was sold and likely closing.

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via @jayfielden: As we speak, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood”—a magnum opus with a cast of casts—is debuting at Cannes. The movie, which is set in 1969, inspired us to collaborate with the director and his two leading men on a cover that captures the look and feel of the great Esquire covers of the same era. The entire issue, in fact, taps the Spirit of ‘69—the style, the vibe, even some of the magazine’s own history—to reflect, a half century later, on 2019. To get the special issue, you’ll have to wait for it to hit newsstands officially on June 4th. But to read @michael_hainey’s exclusive Q&A with @leonardodicaprio, Quentin Tarantino, and Brad Pitt, click the link in our bio. Casting by @emilypoenisch // photos by @alexilubomirski // styling by @matthew_marden // design by @raul_a_aguila // editing jeuje by @brucehandy // photo direction @justinoneill & @alixbcampbell // @sonypictures // @festivaldecannes

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Later that same evening after DiCaprio first had his encounter with the actor, Phoenix died of a drug overdose outside of the iconic Los Angeles music club. He was with then-girlfriend Samantha Mathis, brother Joaquin Phoenix, sister Rain Phoenix, and Red Hot Chili Peppers band member Flea.

“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. I remember extending my hand out, and then . . . Two people came in front and then I looked back, and then he wasn’t there,” said the Oscar-winning actor.

Running with Monsters author Bob Forrest said in a 2013 report by Page Six that Phoenix had embarked on a drug binge during the last days of his life, which eventually led to his untimely death.

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One could say that DiCaprio has taken up the mantle that Phoenix left behind, becoming both a respected actor and activist in Hollywood. He currently stars in the film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood alongside Brad Pitt. In the film, DiCaprio portrays a faded television actor, who alongside Pitt’s stunt double character, strives to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

DiCaprio also made a cameo in the Lil Dicky video for the song “Earth.”

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hits theaters July 26.