“River doesn’t have a false bone in his body,” says the director Sidney Lumet of Phoenix’s performance in Running On Empty, soon to be released over here. “He can’t utter a false line. He stopped in the middle of one scene while we were shooting and said, ‘This feels fake to me.’ I listened again. He was right. I cut the scene. So long as River follows his instincts, takes stuff he believes in, there’ll be no stopping him. I first saw him in Stand By Me and there was such an extraordinary purity about him.’’
- Sidney Lumet about River for The Face, July 1989.
This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant old man who has been nothing all his life - who has never had recognition - or his name in the newspapers. Nobody knows him. Nobody quotes him. Nobody seeks his advice after seventy-five years. Gentlemen, that’s a very sad thing to be nothing. A man like this needs to be quoted, to be listened to, to be quoted just once - very important to him… He wouldn’t really lie, but perhaps he made himself believe that he heard those words and recognized the boy’s face.