Joaquin Phoenix & Rooney Mara welcomed a son, they named him River

Rooney Mara and Oscar® nominee, Joaquin Phoenix arrive on the red carpet of The 92nd Oscars® a...

Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix got together in late 2016/early 2017. They moved quickly, but since they rarely talk about their relationship, people don’t really know that. They moved in together quickly, they started raising dogs together, and they seemed super-serious immediately. We’ve heard stories about how maybe they’re engaged, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they had gotten secretly married at some point. Then in May, we heard that Rooney was pregnant and “far along.” Turns out, she absolutely was pregnant. Rooney and Joaquin welcomed a baby boy recently. They named him River, after Joaquin’s beloved late brother.

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara are first time parents! According to director Victor Kossakovsky, the couple welcomed a son just last month and have named him River.

Victor revealed the happy baby news during the 2020 Zurich Film Festival over the weekend during a Q&A session with the audience following a screening of Gunda. Joaquin is an executive producer on the film.

Joaquin and Rooney seem to have chosen the name River in honor of his elder brother, who passed away in 1993 from a drug overdose.

[From JustJared]

When I posted this on Twitter, I was a little bit surprised by the outpouring of emotion for the news. People of our generation (I would say younger Gen Xers, Xennials and older Millennials) remember River Phoenix with such fondness. River had already arrived, he was already considered the best actor of his generation when he passed away. And… Joaquin was there the night he passed away. Joaquin called 911. Joaquin barely spoke about his brother in interviews, but I did notice that there was some softening around the subject of his family a lot during Joaquin’s Oscar campaign for Joker. Remember that 60 Minutes interview? Joaquin spoke about River and his mom and sisters also went on camera. *sob*

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70 Responses to “Joaquin Phoenix & Rooney Mara welcomed a son, they named him River”

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  1. yo-yo says:

    i heart Joaquin so much. Jealous and happy for Rooney at the same dang time. Congrats to the family !

  2. Laalaa says:

    Beautiful, congratulations. I can imagine how much it means to him to be able to name his son his brother’s name.
    You rarely see love in Hollywood, but I see love with Mara and Joker!

    • minx says:

      Looking at those pictures of River…I imagine he would have given us many wonderful performances if he had lived.

      • bettyrose says:

        No doubt. And then Health Ledger came on the scene and reminded me so much of River Phoenix (accent aside). Just sobs all around.

    • Lady2Lazy says:

      Agree! They make a lovely couple and it’s so touching to have a son so that they can honor his brother. Such a beautiful sentiment and I hope that Mara is doing well as well as little River is too!! Happy for them!

  3. Eleonor says:

    I like these two together, and congrats for the baby!

    • VS says:

      I like them too; they keep their private life private; their work is their public life…..I have a huge soft spot for Rooney!
      Huge congrats to them both!

      • clomo says:

        I like them too, she did well as the girl with the dragon tattoo and he is definitely the real deal, cool cats those two. I also loved River in my own private Idaho, it was one of those movies that in influenced me, I was the part of the target audience and really related to it, also stand by me, timeless movie that one.. The viper room, strange days, I saw Madonna there handing out CDs once.

  4. Seraphina says:

    What touching news and happy news at the same time. I think there is a great deal of talent in that gene pool, Joaquin has a wide spectrum as well. From Johnny Cash to Joker and Signs to Gladiator. Congrats to the happy couple.

  5. GrassRoots says:

    I don’r know why, but when I saw this headline it made me sad for Rooney because he doesn’t seem respectful to her in public and I also feel that the paparazzi will never leave their child alone now that he is named River. I was such a huge fan of River Phoenix so I should be happy but it didn’t make me feel that way. Joaquin seems to ignore her when they are at events and he didn’t thank her in his Oscar speech, which I find deplorable and speaks volumes about his character.

    • Tanguerita says:

      No idea what you are talking about. Just a quick perfunctory google search shows tons of pictures where he looks at like she was the best thing that had ever happened to him. His Oscar speech was about, to quote him “to give his voice to the voiceless”. Plus, they both are so incredibly low-key, I can’t imagine that paparazzi would start hunting their child just because of his name.

      • molly says:

        River isn’t in the pop culture zeitgeist anymore. Paparazzi may care about the baby as much as they would a baby of any other celebrity couple, but River’s death was a very long time ago. You have to be a Gen X to really know who he was and care.

    • Normades says:

      Disagree. He could not have gotten through that campaign without her. She is absolutely his pillar of strength and in every look/kiss he gives her it shows that he is incredibly grateful.

      • Lady2Lazy says:

        @ Molly, I have to disagree. As a baby boomer, I adored River and just recently rewatched Stand By Me. I saw this powerhouse of a young actor when he was alive and knew then that he would be one of the greatest actors of his generation. You could see it in his performances and you knew that his performances were of ease and as natural to him as putting on his shoes. There are a few actors/actresses that have that natural ability, and he was one of them.

  6. Frida_K says:

    This news made me cry a little. I’m really happy for them, and the name touches my heart.

    Between this and the amazing skateboarding, Fleetwood Mac lip syncing cranberry juice vato, I’m really feeling things this morning.

    Gen X here, what can I tell you?

    • L84Tea says:

      River’s death still stings a lot. It has always made me cringe with regret for him as a person and an actor. I would’ve LOVED to have seen what he would’ve gone on to do because it would’ve been amazing stuff.

    • Blairski says:

      River’s death was so sad – such a loss to his family and to the rest of us. He and Heath Ledger… fantastic actors who left us too soon. I had a little lump in my throat when I read this headline.

      • Plus says:

        I named my son after a complicated soul. It’s a sweet way to revive the love…can’t quite explain but my own family were super upset @ my choice. I was adopted so I’d like to think true family would understand!

  7. Smalltown Girl says:

    I was wondering if they would name him River, especially when I saw a post in August pointing out it would have been River’s 50th birthday. I also realized that she would have already known she was pregnant at the oscars (going by the dates for my late September baby, where I found out in early January) and that might have added to their intimacy and contentment that night.

  8. Lynn says:

    Argh. Every Gen X reader is sitting here with tears in our eyes.

    • Esmom says:

      Indeed. It’s a very sweet tribute to the uncle Baby River will never know.

      • Snappyfish says:

        I actually got a little teary eyed when Insaw they had named the child River. So sweet. I like them together & him so much. Beat wishes to the new family

    • Also Ali says:


    • Godwina says:

      River Phoenix and I were born same month and year, and this story is bringing me waaaaaaaay baaaaaaack…..

      Unlike most people named after family who passed away, this one will at least “know” his namesake thanks to film.

    • MissMarierose says:

      So true. I didn’t expect to get so choked up, but here we are.

    • Snowslow says:

      So true. I waited to read this because I knew I would get the sting of sorrow and nostalgia.

  9. Lucy2 says:

    Congrats to them!
    River was such a great actor, It was devastating when he died. it’s a nice honor to name the baby after him.

  10. ABritGuest says:

    Ahh this was sweet. Bless lil River and congrats to the new parents

  11. Sankay says:

    Glad for them. However, doesn’t his sister Liberty have a son named River too? They called him Rio which is also what Frieda day family called River. I guess there are no rules and cousins with the same name is not an issue as it shows how much the family adored their brother.

    • Abby says:

      I dont think there are rules about that. I know of cousins both named Preston. As long as both siblings are OK with it, go for it.

    • Lena says:

      Okay you answered my question which was I found it strange there already wasn’t a River among his 3 sister’s children.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Rain Phoenix released an album last year named River.
      Liberty Phoenix has a son named Rio.
      Summer Phoenix has a son named Indiana – River played a young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

  12. Lala11_7 says:

    Gen Xer here..

    I LOVE River…


    • TIFFANY says:

      Me too. When I read this, the tears started flowing. I still feel his death.

      • Thirtynine says:

        And another Gen Xer here, too, who remembers how young and yet how mesmerising River Phoenix was on screen. Still miss him. This is such a bittersweet story. I wish the new family all the best.

  13. jbyrdku says:

    I remember River Phoenix, but I was a little too young for him to mean as much to me as he did to my older siblings. That said, I do remember the 911 call and how brutal that was. I thought it was lovely that he named his child after River.

  14. Becks1 says:

    I am surprised at how emotional I was when I saw this on twitter this morning. I hope the growing family is happy and healthy

  15. Case says:

    That’s so sweet and heartwarming. Congrats to them. They seem like a lovely couple.

  16. Boxy Lady says:

    Reportedly, he’s already a month old so he was probably born right around his uncle’s 50th birthday. 🥺

  17. Loretta says:

    Tha’s so sweet and moving.

  18. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    I just love this so damn much and it brings such joy during the apocalyptic time we’re living in.

    My son is a River too. I always loved the name and when I was pregnant, my husband suggested the name Rio. I loved the idea of our baby having the Spanish version of a name I already loved. Of course, River Phoenix was always in the back of my mind when finalizing this name. People of our generation just know how significant he was. I also like that rivers can be calm but also strong enough to carve their way in the world.

  19. ce says:

    Aww :*(
    I’m a big believer in having our ancestors present in our lives. This is a great way, I feel, to keep River around in their family. The baby will grow up with a connection to his uncle which will keep him alive.

  20. ME says:

    Such a sweet gesture to name his son after River. His brother was a great actor and would have had such a huge career even today.

  21. Ann says:

    This makes me happy today. 💕

  22. Ariel says:

    As someone born in 1972 who loved Stand by Me, Running on Empty, Sneakers, Dogfight, playing young Indiana Jones, and being blown away that River and Keanu Reeves did My Own Private Idaho (an artistic movie about young male hookers), everyone [all us strangers] was crushed when he died. It was hard to believe it was real.
    The thought of his little brother witnessing the night still breaks my heart.
    I hope baby River helps his dad on the lifelong “journey” of healing.

    • L84Tea says:

      I looooooved Dogfight! And Running on Empty. God, he was so good.

      • sunny says:

        He was a brilliant actor. I am an older Millennial but I have watched most of his work. What a talent he was! A few months ago I watched a documentary on his life and it was so moving. We will never know what performances he would have given us if he lived but I don’t know how anybody can see the body of work he left behind and not feel the loss of an extraordinary talent. In particular, I love his work in My Own Private Idaho and Dogfight(so so good).

        While we mourn the loss of River’s talent, beauty, and potential, I cannot imagine how painful it was and continues to be for his family, in particular Joaquin. Lovely that he choose to honour his brother this way.

    • emmy says:

      Running on Empty is still among my top 5 movies. I was maybe 12 or 13 when I saw it on TV. I forgot the title and never found it again until the very late 90s when the internet happened in our home. Still couldn’t get my hands on a VHS until years later I had a friend from the US send me the DVD. Had to hack my DVD player to watch it.

      I’m so happy for them, he’s been through some shit and it really looks like she makes him happy.

  23. Insomniac says:

    This makes me happy. I was in my very early 20s when River died and his death hit me like a kick in the gut; I still get sad thinking about what might have been. Congrats to Joaquin and Rooney and baby River.

  24. Spurc says:

    Yes, tears immediately sprang to my eyes! Happy and bittersweet! As much as I loved, and still love, River, it catches me off-guard every time, how much it affects me to hear things about him or in honor of him from his family. 💗💔💗

    You know this little dude has brought so much joy to his family! 🎉🎉🎉

  25. Beesknee says:

    What a touching way to honor his brother. I feel sad we did not see River grow older with us Gen Xer’s and the great films River that could have been.

    I did the same by naming my daughter after my sister, Laura, after her tragic death years ago.

  26. Jerusha says:

    Since meeting Rooney Mara, JP seems to exhibit a contentment I’d never seen before. Congratulations to them.

    And, PS, River was not only appreciated by his generational peers. I was a fan. If you haven’t witnessed his haunting performance in My Own Private Idaho, please remedy that. As a bonus, it also showcases one of Keanu’s finest outings.

  27. Athyrmose says:

    This is very sweet, and I’m really happy for them.

    Victor needs to zip it, though.

  28. Brittney B says:

    Oof. I don’t think a celebrity baby name has ever made me cry before.

  29. Abby says:

    When I heard this news yesterday I teared up. So sweet.

    I’m a Millenial, and he was before my time, but I loved his movies. He was so handsome and so talented. Such a loss.

  30. A reader says:

    I am bawling over my morning coffee.


    River was the first celebrity death that destroyed me. My first crush, a brilliant actor, and one of the most beautiful creatures to walk this earth.

  31. bettyrose says:

    Thank you for those pictures of River! He was really something special. Like any GenXer, I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard the awful news, but I can also tell you endless stories of girls outings to see his latest films and slumber parties to watch those same movies on repeat.

  32. Ksweet says:

    I’m so happy for them! They seem so in love, and I love that they named him River. Agree that I hope this helps Joaquin heal. I’m sure he is a beautiful baby!

  33. FHMom says:

    He was such a beautiful boy. My heart needed something warm this morning, and this did it.

  34. Sass says:

    Young and strong Hollywood son
    In the early morning light

  35. Emily says:

    I personally am not a fan of the name River (sorry!). Same goes for “nature” sounding names but I know the Phoenix family were a bunch of hippies that moved around a lot and all about the Flower Power. I was 5 when River died so I have no memory of his burgeoning career so I don’t really feel like I have a personal connection to him. But over the decades I understand he was considered the next big thing and very talented, mythologized so much for dying young. And his death clearly affected his family very deeply and I think this is probably why Joaquim is so private. I read he was very angry about the media constantly playing his 911 call (which I have never listened to and never plan to) and I can’t blame him for being very reticent about his life in general. I would be too.

    I think it’s very touching to pass down his brother’s name to his son. But I also think it’s a little bit of a double edged sword. River is still remembered and talked about today and hopefully the media won’t be constantly comparing little River Phoenix to his deceased uncle as he grows up. It can give people a bit of a complex when they carry on someone’s legacy they share a name with or if they physically resemble their more famous ancestor. (I think about Lisa Marie Presley’s son who people kept physically comparing to Elvis a lot who recently committed suicide as an example). Knowing Joaquim though he will probably keep his kid as far away from the media as possible.

    • bettyrose says:

      I had similar thought (well, not about being 5. I was 19 when River died). It’s a big name to live up to, especially if he has the exact same full name, but he’ll probably have a very different appearance and personality, so over time he’ll own the name himself.

  36. kerwood says:

    Of course he named his child River. I’m not a fan of Joaquin Phoenix (I loved River) and I have no idea if I’ve ever seen Rooney Mara act, but I think it’s lovely that he named his child after his brother.

  37. Mariane says:

    Congratulations to them. What a nice tribute to his dear brother. Happy for them

  38. Milkweed says:

    Welcome Little River! 🏞️

  39. Delphine says:

    I was 19 when he died, too, and I was gutted. I had a huge crush on River. He was such a phenomenal talent and my heart broke for Joachim that he had to witness his brother’s death. I ended up naming my son after him. This news today warmed my heart. I’m so happy for them. Yes it’s quite a legacy to live up to but I’d like to think this kid will be his own person.

  40. The Recluse says:

    I remember being so sad when River died. (Gen-Xer here). He really was the brightest light in his generation, along with Keanu.
    If you want to see them both doing comedy, watch I Love You To Death. It has Kevin Kline and William Hurt in it too.

  41. bevhead says:

    I was pretty ambivalent about them both when they were single, (they’re a bit pretentious, right?) but ever since they got together they’ve been my favourite celebrity couple. This is really heartwarming.