Born into a hippie family, River Phoenix spent his childhood moving from place to place, living for a time in South and Central America. As an adolescent, he debuted before the camera in an episode of the daytime TV series Fantasy, after which he appeared in the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Family Ties. He debuted onscreen in Joe Dante's Explorers (1985), but first made a big impression in his second film, Rob Reiner's sleeper hit Stand By Me (1986). He soon gained a reputation as a precociously talented actor with a singular ability to reach inside himself, and made the transition to adult roles as a young hustler in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991). His brother Joaquin (aka Leaf) has also acted in many films. River Phoenix died of an overdose of cocaine and amphetamines in October, 1993.