I came across an article today about Gen Xer River Phoenix‘s last movie, Dark Blood, which is finally going to be released nearly 20 years after the actor’s death. It got me to wondering about my favorite actress, Samantha Mathis, and what she might be up to these days. You may recall, Mathis was dating River Phoenix at the time of his death (October 31, 1993) from a speedball — a lethal combination of cocaine and heroin.
Samantha Mathis, River Phoenix and A Thing Called Love
I loved Mathis in the 1993 movie The Thing Called Love, which starred Phoenix. There’s a song from that movie that I often sang to my daughter Juliette. It was called Big Dream and it was written by Alice Randall and Ralph Murphy. I bought the movie soundtrack specifically for that song only to discover that it wasn’t even on there. I never understand why they left the most important song of the movie off the album.
More Samantha Mathis Movies
Mathis has starred in several films and television movies over the years. Some of my favorites include Pump Up the Volume (1990), This Is My Life (1992), Little Women (1994), Jack and Sarah (1995) and How To Make An American Quilt (1995). And, here’s an interesting Gen X anecdote that reveals her time and place in Hollywood history. She’s played women or girls with quintessential Gen X names like Jennifer, Tiffany, Amy, Stephanie, and Samantha.
Pump Up The Volume
I was still in college when I saw Mathis play Nora in Pump Up The Volume, a favorite teen movie among younger Gen Xers. Check out this recent post on Existential Ella about channeling Nora’s look. I love how Ella defines Mathis: “…One of the original bohemian/goth/punk rock princesses of the 90s!”
How To Make An American Quilt
In 1995, Mathis starred in Jack and Sarah and How To Make An American Quilt, and in 1996, Broken Arrow. That same year, she lost her mother, actress Bibi Besch, to breast cancer.
I especially loved her in How To Make An American Quilt, which also starred iconic Generation X actress Winona Ryder. Mathis had a relatively small role in the film, but for me, it was the most memorable character, Sophia Darling. She was the diver whose free spirit died under the burden of marriage, children, and domesticity.
Finally, it goes without saying, I loved Mathis in Little Women. She did a stellar job as Amy and her true beauty really shined through. It always annoyed me that they chose to put the younger Amy, played by Kirsten Dunst, on the cover of the DVD instead of Mathis who played the older Amy. She was truly amazing in that role.
Although Mathis has never achieved the level of popularity of her The Thing Called Love co-stars Sandra Bullock (reportedly her best friend) and the late Phoenix, I think she is among the best actresses of my generation. I hope someday she writes a memoir — to give voice to her brief time with River Phoenix and so many other Gen X icons including Ryder, Christian Slater, Bullock, and many more.
Something tells me she probably doesn’t mind flying under the radar of fame. At any point, she could flesh out her Wikipedia entry (2014 Update: It’s been rewritten since this blog post was published in 2012) or created a stronger presence in social media via Twitter and Facebook. She hasn’t done any of those things. In fact, in a 2007 interview posted to YouTube, she talks briefly about her mother having a couple of crazed fans.
I hope the opening of Atlas Shrugged II this weekend goes well for Mathis. I hope it means we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.
Samantha Mathis Updates
Mathis does have a Twitter account. Check it out. Her tweets are very fun and real and she responds to fans. In fact, given her use of emoticons on Twitter, maybe “Existential Ella” who left a comment on this post in 2012, was actually Mathis. =) Recently, the actress had a recurring role on Under the Dome and has been cast in AMC’s pilot Line of Sight and CBS’s Red Zone. On a personal note, Mathis has dated several big-name actors but is not married.
Samantha Mathis currently stars in The Strain, which will enter its fourth and final season in 2017. Stephen King recently gave her a big shout-out on Twitter saying he really enjoyed her performance in the series. Also, Mathis is involved with the Screen Actors Guild. She serves on the national board in the position of vice-president for actors and performers.