Joaquin Phoenix Named His Baby ‘River’ Nearly 27 Years After His Brother’s Death

Joaquin Phoenix and fiancée Rooney Mara welcomed their first child, but it's how Phoenix honored his late brother that's touching the hearts of Gen Xers and millennials.

Joaquin Phoenix, 45, Academy Award-winning actor of Joker and Walk the Line, and his fiancée, Oscar-nominated actress Rooney Mara, 35, of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, just welcomed their first child—but it's the baby's meaningful name that's got fans feeling sentimental.

The couple named their baby boy River, after Phoenix's late brother who died on October 31, 1993. River Phoenix, who died tragically of a drug overdose at the age of 23, was best known for his natural talent in movies like Stand by Me and Running on Empty. The original star in the family, River once told his brother, "You're going to be a more successful actor than I am" and was the one who encouraged his acting career.

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara
Getty Images

The newborn's name is a sweet tribute to Phoenix's late brother nearly 27 years after his death, and fans of the actors are reacting with full hearts on social media.

Phoenix and Mara met on the set of the 2013 film Her, but didn't make their public debut until 2017 at the Cannes Film Festival. The couple was engaged in 2019, when Mara was seen sporting a large diamond. They've primarily kept their romance hush-hush, so it's no surprise that the couple's happy news actually came from someone else: Russian director Victor Kossakovsky, who Phoenix worked with on the documentary Gunda.

“He just got a baby by the way,” Kossakovsky said Sunday during the 2020 Zurich Film Festival. “A beautiful son called River."


Phoenix has opened up about the devastation over losing his brother, telling Anderson Cooper in a 60 Minutes interview in January, “In virtually every movie that I made, there was a connection to River in some way."

Now his son, too, will have a connection to his late uncle forever.

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