Samantha Mathis

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Samantha Mathis
Born (1970-05-12) May 12, 1970 (age 48)
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1988–present
Parent(s)Bibi Besch

Samantha Mathis (born May 12, 1970) is an American actress. The daughter of actress Bibi Besch, Mathis made her film debut in Pump Up the Volume (1990), and later co-starred or appeared in such films as Little Women (1994), The American President (1995), Broken Arrow (1996), American Psycho (2000), The Punisher (2004), and Atlas Shrugged: Part II (2012).

Early life[edit]

Mathis was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Donald Mathis and Austrian-born actress Bibi Besch.[1][2] Her parents divorced when she was two years old, and Mathis was raised by her mother. She relocated with her mother to Los Angeles at the age of five.[3] Mathis's mother discouraged her from pursuing acting, but growing up on locations, in theaters, and in acting classes, Mathis knew she wanted to act.[1] She decided to become an actress at the age of twelve.[4]


Mathis began acting professionally at the age of 16.[5] Her first job was a commercial for "Always Slender Pads – Just For Teens."[1] She co-starred in the television series Aaron's Way and Knightwatch from 1988 to 1989. Her first starring role in a feature film was that of Nora in Pump Up the Volume (1990), opposite Christian Slater, whom she briefly dated at the time.[3] Mathis dyed her natural blonde hair black for the role in an effort to change her image from sweet and innocent to strong-willed.[4]

Mathis appeared in the television movies Extreme Close-up, 83 Hours 'til Dawn, and To My Daughter in 1990. Mathis and Slater had voice roles in the animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992). She next appeared in the comedy This Is My Life (1992), written and directed by Nora Ephron, playing an insecure teenager.[5] Mathis appeared in the play Fortinbras in New York City in October 1992.[6] Super Mario Bros. (1993), in which she played Princess Daisy from the popular Nintendo video game, was a box-office bomb but gained a cult following since its release.[7]

Mathis met actor River Phoenix on the set of The Thing Called Love (1993) and the two started a relationship. She was with Phoenix on October 31, 1993, the night he died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital of a drug overdose after collapsing outside West Hollywood's Viper Room.[8] She made the film Jack and Sarah (1995), which was shot in London, in order to get out of the country after his death because of the excessive press coverage.[3]

Mathis appeared in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women, and in How to Make an American Quilt (1995), both starring Winona Ryder.[9] She then appeared in The American President (1995), playing the assistant to the President of the United States. Mathis costarred with Christian Slater again, along with John Travolta, in John Woo's Broken Arrow (1996). She took a little over a year off from acting after her mother died in 1996 from breast cancer.[10]

Mathis later appeared in American Psycho (2000), a film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 novel of the same name. She starred in Attraction (2000), and in The Simian Line (2001). She starred in the TNT television miniseries The Mists of Avalon (2001). Mathis starred with Thomas Jane in The Punisher (2004). She had a guest role on the ABC television show Lost as Olivia Goodspeed. Her indie film Lebanon, PA had its world premiere at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. She appeared in an off-Broadway production of the play, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, at New York City's Westside Theatre in October 2011.[11]

In 2013, Mathis played psychiatrist Alice Calvert on the CBS television series Under the Dome, based on a novel by Stephen King.[12] She joined the cast of the FX horror drama series The Strain in 2014, playing Justine Feraldo, a New York City councilwoman for Staten Island.[13]

Relationship with River Phoenix[edit]

Mathis was the last girlfriend of actor River Phoenix and was with Phoenix the night he died as a result of a drug overdose while attending The Viper Room in Los Angeles, California. In the autopsy report the Los Angeles Police detailed that Mathis refused several times to give more details surrounding the death of Phoenix and had told deputies at the time of Phoenix's death that she had no knowledge of his drug use.[14]

Mathis spoke for the first time publicly about the death of Phoenix in an interview with The Guardian in 2018.[15] She elaborated on the circumstances surrounding Phoenix's death: "I knew something was wrong that night, something I didn’t understand. I didn’t see anyone doing drugs but he was high in a way that made me feel uncomfortable...the heroin that killed him didn’t happen until he was in the Viper Room. I have my suspicions about what was going on, but I didn’t see anything."[16]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Mathis was nominated in 1995 for a Young Artist Award at the Young Artist Awards for Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture for This Is My Life (1992) and in 2005 for a Saturn Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for Best Supporting Actress on Television for Salem's Lot (2004) (TV).



Year Title Role Notes
1988 Circle of Love Roseanne Miller Television movie
1989 Forbidden Sun Paula
1989 Cold Sassy Tree Lightfoot McClendon Television movie
1990 Extreme Close-Up Laura Television movie
1990 83 Hours 'Til Dawn Julie Burdock Television movie
1990 To My Daughter Anne Carlston Television movie
1990 Pump Up the Volume Nora Diniro
1992 This Is My Life Erica Ingels Nominated—Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture
1992 FernGully: The Last Rainforest Crysta (voice)
1993 The Music of Chance Tiffany
1993 Super Mario Bros. Princess Daisy
1993 The Thing Called Love Miranda Presley
1994 Little Women Adult Amy March
1995 Jack and Sarah Amy
1995 How to Make an American Quilt Young Sophia Darling Richards Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1995 The American President Janie Basdin
1996 Broken Arrow Terry Carmichael
1996 Museum of Love Stephanie Short film
1998 Waiting for Woody Gail Silver Short film
1998 Sweet Jane Jane
1999 Freak City Ruth Ellison Television movie
2000 The Simian Line Mae
2000 American Psycho Courtney Rawlinson
2000 Mermaid Rhonda Television movie
2000 Attraction Corey
2001 The Mists of Avalon Gwenhwyfar Television movie
2002 Becoming Glen Unknown Television movie
2004 The Punisher Maria Castle
2004 Salem's Lot Susan Norton Television movie
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television
2005 Fathers and Sons Jenny Television movie
2005 Kids in America Jennifer Rose
2005 Touched Jeannie Bates
2006 Believe in Me Jean Driscoll
2006 Local Color Carla
2006 Absolution Bettina Lloyd Television movie
2007 A Stranger's Heart Callie Morgan Television movie
2007 Mitch Albom's For One More Day Young Pauline 'Posey' Benetto Television movie
2009 The New Daughter Cassandra Parker
2009 Apple Pie and Coffee (voice) Short film
2010 Buried Linda Conroy (voice)
2010 Order of Chaos Jennifer
2010 Unanswered Prayers Lorrie Beck Television movie
2010 Lebanon, Pa. Vicki
2011 Good Day for It Sarah Bryant
2011 Camilla Dickinson Rose Dickinson
2012 Atlas Shrugged: Part II Dagny Taggart
2014 Affluenza Bunny Miller
2016 American Pastoral Penny Hamlin
2017 Ray Meets Helen Mary
2018 The Clovehitch Killer Cindy


Year Title Role Notes
1988 Aaron's Way Roseanne Miller 14 Episodes
1988–1989 Knightwatch Jacqueline 'Jake' Monroe 9 Episodes
1989 CBS Summer Playhouse Mary Dunne Episode: "American Nuclear"
1999 The Outer Limits Marie Wells Episode: "The Shroud"
1999–2000 Harsh Realm Sophie Green 4 Episodes
2001 First Years Ann Weller 9 Episodes
2001 Night Visions Diane Ballard Episode: "The Passenger List/Bokor"
2002 PBS Hollywood Presents Lisa Morrison Episode: "Collected Stories"
2003 The Twilight Zone Rachel Stark Episode: "Into the Light"
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Hilary Barclay Episode: "Control"
2005 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Dr. Christine Ansel Episode: "Saving Face"
2006 Secrets of a Small Town Samantha Steele Episode: "Pilot"
2006 House Maria Palko Episode: "Clueless"
2006 Nightmares & Dreamscapes Karen Evans Episode: "The Fifth Quarter"
2007 Lost Olivia Goodspeed Episode: "The Man Behind the Curtain"
2009 Grey's Anatomy Melinda Prescott 3 Episodes
2009 Royal Pains Amy Hill Episode: "Wonderland"
2011 Curb Your Enthusiasm Donna Episode: "The Hero"
2013 Under the Dome Alice Calvert 8 Episodes
2015–2016 The Strain Justine Feraldo 17 Episodes
2019 Billions (TV series) Sara Hammon 7 Episodes


  1. ^ a b c Craven, Jonathan (March 1996). "Sam I am" (interview). Bikini.
  2. ^ "Samantha Mathis". Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Hensley, Dennis. "Elementary Mathis", Detour (December 1995)
  4. ^ a b Matsumoto, Jon (September 1, 1990). "Acting's in Samantha Mathis' Blood: Mom's and Grandmom's Too", The Los Angeles Times; retrieved August 31, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Malkin, Nina (June 1992). "This is my Life". Seventeen. pp. 4, 82-83.
  6. ^ Gussow, Mel (October 14, 1992). "Theater in Review". The New York Times; retrieved April 24, 2008.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Pearce, Garth (June 1996). "Why I Still Grieve For River." OK! Weekly.
  9. ^ Thompson, Bob (October 15, 1995). "Patch in to Mathis". The Toronto Sun.
  10. ^ Sheridan, Patricia (April 30, 2007). "Samantha Mathis profile", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; retrieved April 24, 2008.
  11. ^ Hetrick, Adam (October 5, 2011). "Dee Hoty and Samantha Mathis Join Love, Loss, and What I Wore Oct. 5" Archived 2011-11-03 at the Wayback Machine, Playbill; retrieved October 30, 2011.
  12. ^ Rushfield, Richard (July 15, 2013). "Richard Rushfield visits the set of CBS's summer hit 'Under the Dome'". Retrieved August 7, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Petski, Denise (November 14, 2014). "Samantha Mathis Joins 'The Strain'; Inbar Lavi In 'The Last Ship'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  14. ^ "Autopsy report" (PDF).
  15. ^ Alexander, Bryan (October 26, 2018). "River Phoenix's death: Samantha Mathis breaks silence about the tragic night 25 years ago". USA Today. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  16. ^ Freeman, Hadley (October 25, 2018). "The untold story of lost star River Phoenix – 25 years after his death". The Guardian. Retrieved October 25, 2018.

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