Joaquin Phoenix Named His Son 'River' 27 Years After Brother's Death

Gen Xers and millennials shared their emotional reactions online about how Joaquin Phoenix honored his late brother by naming his baby River.

Joaquin Phoenix, Academy Award-winning actor of Joker and Walk the Line, and his partner, Oscar-nominated actress Rooney Mara, of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, welcomed their first child in 2020—but it was the baby's meaningful name that 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 Joaquin's acting career.

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara
Getty Images

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

"Guys, Joaquin's son is named River Pheonix!! These are happy tears, I swear," wrote Twitter user @riophonixstuff. The declaration of happiness included two adorable pictures of the Phoenix brothers from when they were kids.

@DrewMcWeeny shared some heartfelt thoughts writing, "I was not prepared for my emotional reaction to the news that Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara named their baby boy River." That sentiment was liked 3.9K times and included dozens of responses from equally emotional fans.

River Phoenix fan @rrisingphoenixx wrote, "Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara named their baby River. I'M DROWNING IN MY OWN TEARS." In the lengthy comments section, they added, "Someone go check on the captain of River Phoenix's army, Ethan Hawke. How is he dealing with the news of the birth of another River Phoenix? Has he stopped crying?"

We did not find a public comment from Hawke.

And finally, one Twitter fan of Juaquin Phoenix, @juacsoscar simply wrote, "Joaquin and Rooney naming their baby boy after River Phoenix is the best thing to happen this year."

Phoenix and Mara met on the set of the 2013 film Her but didn't make their public debut as a couple until 2017 at the Cannes Film Festival. The couple got 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 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 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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