“It’s my brother!” a 19-year-old Joaquin Phoenix shouted down the phone to a 911 operator.
“You must get here, please, you must get here, please,” he repeated from a payphone outside the Viper Room in Hollywood.
The phone call went for four minutes. Joaquin knew his 23-year-old brother was dying.
Towards the end of the call, he asked the operator: “He just looks like he’s sleeping. Is that OK?”
River Phoenix, one of the most prolific actors at the time, stopped breathing in the early hours of October 31, 1993. He had died of a drug overdose after consuming ‘speedball’, heroin and cocaine mixed in a drink, followed by a dose of Valium.
As he convulsed on the pavement outside Viper Room, Johnny Depp, who partly owned the nightclub, and his band were performing on stage.
Whispers of what had happened began spreading throughout the club, until eventually the band themselves heard the news: "River's dead".
The following day, the nightclub became a makeshift shrine, with fans leaving flowers and notes to the man affectionately referred to as the "vegan James Dean".
Until Johnny Depp sold his share in 2004, he ensured the club was shut down every year on October 31.
A gross violation of privacy
The death of his brother, and the way in which the media subsequently violated their family's privacy, profoundly affected Joaquin Phoenix.
In the days following River's death, media broke into a funeral home in Miami and took a photograph of his body in a casket. The picture was sold to the tabloids.
As the family mourned, Joaquin's phone call was also broadcast on radio and television.