Ethan Hawke learned a valuable lesson from River Phoenix’s death

In an interview with The Guardian published Monday, Hawke spoke about working with the late Phoenix when they were both child actors.

The pair appeared in the kids’ film “Explorers,” which bombed, but Hawke said he learned a valuable lesson from knowing Phoenix, who famously died at the age of 23 of a drug overdose after collapsing outside of a West Hollywood nightclub.

Hawke explained to the publication that he doesn’t act in easier movies because “my first screen partner overdosed on Sunset Boulevard, you know?”

“He was the brightest light and this industry chewed him up, and that was a big lesson to me,” Hawke said of Phoenix. “If I had to put a single reason on why I never moved to LA, it would be I think it’s too dangerous for an actor like me to be in that kind of climate.”

Now 50 years old and starring in “The Good Lord Bird,” about the famous abolitionist John Brown, Hawke can reflect back on his earlier career, which included losing out on a role in the film “Stand By Me” to Phoenix.

“You’re really good, but I just gave the part to another kid with a bird name,” Hawke recalled “Stand By Me” director Rob Reiner telling him at the time.

Hawke made clear his enormous respect for Phoenix, as he did for other actors he has worked with who also died too soon, including Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Hawke reflected on those loses during the interview.

“Drugs and alcohol and depression are formidable opponents all over the world. People think getting what you want will make you happy, but a sense of self, purpose and love don’t come from the outside,” he said. “You can’t get distracted by this culture that celebrates things that sometimes aren’t what they seem.”

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