Siskel $ Ebert called this movie "River Phoenix's Cry For Help;" indeed it is:
River Phoenix's eyes are dark, he's pale, he's acting stranger than usual . . . HEROIN! (River looks "beat-up" the way Corey Feldman looks like in Dream a Little Dream)
. . . Heroin intoxication affects your renal system as well as your brain, you are poisoning your body when you inhale or inject heroin.
Peter Bogdanovich also confirms that River Phhoenix acted strangely between takes.
-- Reportedly, River Phoenix first used heroin while preparing for his role as a heroin addicted male prostitute in My Own Private Idaho.
River Phoenix was a "disciple" of the Stanislovsky Method of acting where the actor is to do the exact same things the character he is portraying does.
from my post in the "News Section"
Finally; I hope it features the Last Scene River Phoenix ever filmed where River is walking deeper and deeper into a dark cave alight with burning candles.
--- I still remember October 31, 1993 like it was yesterday. I was STUNNED by the news reports of River Phoenix collapsing on the side-walk of a "seedy" night-club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.
River was the most CLEAN-CUT dude around . . . drugs? no way; no FREAKING way; Not River . . . and HEROIN on top of that . . . because everybody knows that Heroin is the Worst-of-the-Worst Drugs to get on to.
-- . . . and River Phoenix died of a SPEED-BALL (Heroin and Cocaine) the EXACT combination of drugs that John Belushi.
--- You know that River Phoenix first "did" Heroin on the set of My Own Private Idaho; River Phoenix was a "disciple" of the Stanislovsky Method of acting where you actually do the things that the character you're portraying does.
No, Gus Van Sant (the director of My Own Private Idaho) did not have responsibility for what River Phoenix did or did not do to prepare for his role.
I used to blame Gus Van Sant for exploiting River Phoenix's youthfulness naivete:
that maybe Gus Van Sant egged-on River to get deeper into his part as a Male-Prostitute-slash-heroin-addict.
its highly subjective yet RIVER PHOENIX possessed a unique and irreplaceable quality; a unique and charismatic aura. Running on Empty is Classic. Harrison Ford (River's Father in Mosquito Coast) got the scar on his chin in a near-fatal car accident at age 23 and River Phoenix died at age 23. Harrison and River looked alike and acted alike. It was uncanny. Siskel and Ebert called The Thing Called Love River's Cry For Help . . . they were right; in The Thing Called Love, River's eyes are dark and he's pale; he acts weirder than usual throughout the picture. October 31. 1993 (the news reports from November 1, 1993) was Horrible.