Leonardo DiCaprio Opens Up About Seeing River Phoenix The Night He Died: ‘I Looked Back And Then He Wasn’t There’

Leonardo DiCaprio never got to meet River Phoenix, but he did see him once on the night he died.

In a new Esquire story about the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood”, DiCaprio opens up about that tragic night.

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“I grew up revering River Phoenix as the great actor of my generation, and all I ever wanted was to have just an opportunity to shake his hand,” the actor says.

“And one night, at a party in Silver Lake, I saw him walk up a flight of stairs. It was almost like something you would see in ‘Vertigo’, because I saw there was something in his face, and I’d never met him — always wanted to meet him, always wanted to just have an encounter with him — and he was walking toward me and I kind of froze,” DiCaprio continues. “And then the crowd got in my way, and I looked back and he was gone.”

From there, though, the story gets sadly darker.

“I walked back up the stairs and back down, and I was like, ‘Where did he go?’ And he was… on his way to The Viper Room,” DiCaprio recalls.

The Viper Room, which was partly owned by Johnny Depp, was the elite club where Phoenix died from a drug overdose in 1993 at the age of 23.

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“It was almost as if — I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s this existential thing where I felt like… he disappeared in front of my very eyes, and the tragedy that I felt afterward of having lost this great influence for me and all of my friends,” DiCaprio says. “The actor we all talked about. Just to be able to have that, always wanting to just — and I remember extending my hand out, and then… two people came in front and then I looked back, and then he wasn’t there.”

DiCaprio would later go to New Orleans “to meet about ‘Interview with the Vampire’ to play the part Christian Slater ended up playing,” but for which Phoenix had originally been cast.

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