Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 22
October 31, 1993
River's End

In a macabre twist, the 23-year-old actor River Phoenix died early on Halloween 1993 at 1:51 a.m. from a drug overdose at Los Angeles’ Viper Club. Phoenix had been there with friends on October 30, and was set to go on stage with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Beforehand he made a detour to the men’s room where he snorted a line of Persian Brown, a form of meth mixed with various opiates. Within minutes, Phoenix started to feel sick, staggered out of the club, and passed out in convulsions on the sidewalk. Even though his brother called 911 immediately, paramedics on the scene could not revive him. At the time of his death, Phoenix was considered one of the most promising actors of his generation. Having grown up in a transient hippie family, he was discovered early on for his musical ability, but soon parlayed that into an acting career, starring in the 1985 space adventure Explorers at the age of 15 (with an equally unknown Ethan Hawke). Soon Phoenix was proving his youthful range in a series of features from the coming-of-age yarn Stand by Me to the spy thriller Little Nikita and finally to Gus Van Sant’s Shakespeare-inflected hustler drama My Own Private Idaho. Famous in life, Phoenix gained even more notoriety in death, as his drug overdose was held up as tragic reminder of celebrity drug culture gone horribly wrong. Viper Room owner Johnny Depp was so crushed by the event that he closed the club every Halloween up until he sold his share in 2004.


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Mark Ruffalo November 22, 1967
Mark Ruffalo born

If every generation gets the leading man it deserves, then we should be grateful that Mark Ruffalo’s star is on the rise.

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November 22, 2002
Far From Heaven opens

When Far from Heaven opened in 2002, audiences could believe they had traveled back nearly 50 years to 1957, when the film is set.

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November 22, 1963
The Film Seen Round the World

On November 22, 1963, an accidental filmmaker made what became the most obsessed over film of the twentieth century. Standing on a concrete overpass in Dallas, women’s clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder raised his Bell and Howell 8mm camera and tracked the motorcade that carried president John F. Kennedy through Dealy Plaza. Zapruder’s 27 seconds of footage shot from a clear, elevated vantage point are the only complete recording of Kennedy’s assassination and a focal point for government investigators and conspiracy theorists alike. The film also became the object of one of the stranger ownership tussles in modern cinema. Zapruder gave copies of his film to the Secret Service and, three days after the shooting, sold the negative and all rights to Life Magazine. Zapruder’s heirs later disputed the sale, and the film was eventually returned to them by Life owner Time Inc. for $1 dollar. In 1992, however, the U.S. declared the film an “assassination record” and the property of the government. A lengthy dispute ensued over the amount Zapruder’s heirs should be paid. The government proposed paying the family $3 to $5 million; the Zapruders argued that the film should be valued similarly to recent sales of a Van Gogh painting and an Andy Warhol silk screen of Marilyn Monroe. Finally, arbitrators worked out a value of $16 million. Shortly thereafter, Zapruder’s heirs donated one of the original copies of the film and its copyright to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which now oversees all rights requests.

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