I still remember the day River Phoenix died. I was in love with him, of course. O.K. I didn’t know him enough to love love him, but I loved the thought of who I thought he was.
And I remember the day he died quite clearly in my mind. I came home from dinner with friends and heard on the late night news about his untimely and at the time mysterious death. I remember the devastated, crushed ache of my young early twenties heart. As time went on, all I could think about when I heard his name or saw one of his movies was what a terrible waste his death was — all that fantastic talent gone in the blink of an eye, snuffed out because of stupidity.
For the longest time, I couldn’t watch his movies. They just made me too sad.
When Heath Ledger died in 2008, I didn’t have the same puppy love crush and thus didn’t feel the same crushing ache, but I did feel devastated for the loss of amazing talent that was just gone in a heartbeat. The story is all too familiar and yet no less tragic. Like River he had graduated from child parts to brilliant adult roles and unlike so many actors in Hollywood today, he was able to play characters other than himself. He had a lot of promise.
It’s been only recently that I’ve been able to begin watching movies which star him again. Still, I feel melancholy.
Britney Murphy’s recent bewildering passing brought up all the same internal sadness for me. Britney was another promising star in my mind. Perhaps she wasn’t Julia Roberts nor would she have ever been some Angelina Jolie, but I believe she had the promise to be a great comedienne actress — one of the greats even. At 32, she was so young, too young. Her life and her career were just beginning and it was all over in the blink of an eye before there was a real hint of the shine her star could have been.
One of her movies recently aired on cable, one I really like because it made me laugh, but 5 minutes in I had to turn it off, because watching her made me cry.
The thing is that it’s not just actors who die young that break my heart. Every week I hear about tragic deaths on the news, young people killed in accidents, crime, war — their lives were just beginning but now they are gone and who knows who they might have been, what wonderful, amazing things they might have accomplished, but for a moment of stupidity whether it was their stupidity or someone else’s?
And it makes me sad. I am devastated, crushed, and my heart aches.