The moment in question happened over 30 years ago when Fox was filming 1991’s Doc Hollywood, which was shot in a small Florida town where Phoenix “had a place”.
“River Phoenix and his brother [Joaquin Phoenix] had a place there, and River would take us out,” Fox recalled.
“He used to come and scoop us up and take us to his place and have a barbecue. It’s funny because that was an act of kindness that was built on an act of kindness.”
Fox, 61, said that he believes Phoenix extended the invitation because of his own act of kindness toward him, which occurred on the set of Fox’s former series Family Ties.
River – who died at 23 years old in 1993 – was a guest star when he was 15 years old in a 1985 episode of the series.
“He did an episode of Family Ties when he was younger. It was just before or just after Stand by Me and he would do a scene and I could tell,” Fox said.
“I was looking at this guy. I think Tracy [Pollan, my wife] was on the show that episode. And I said, ‘Look at this kid working. This kid is taking this 10 ways from Sunday and he is really coming at it’. I mean, kids don’t act like this. He really knew how to be an actor but he was struggling on this one scene.”
Fox gave Phoenix a pep talk. “So I went up to him and I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ And he said, ‘I feel like a d***,’” Fox recalled.
“And I said, ‘You feel like a d***? Why?’ He said, ‘I feel goofy, I feel like a d***.’ And I said, ‘Welcome to the business. That’s it. That’s the highest level of accomplishment you’ll get is to feel like a d***.’ It’s stupid. It’s a stupid thing to do for a living.”
Fox continued: “We pretend we’re other people for a living. We use things that we’re not really using and we eat things that we’re not really eating and we stand in a place because the light’s better there and it’s all goofy, but if you stick with it, you can find a way to tell a story that other people can’t.”
Fox said that despite Phoenix’s reservations, the late actor was “phenomenal” at the time.
“I guess that’s why he was always so nice to me when he became a huge star,” he added.