When River Phoenix died of a drug overdose at the age of 23, Hollywood mourned the loss of a promising young actor who would never grace the silver screen again. Now, however, People reports that a final Phoenix movie is being released, 19 years after his death.
Phoenix died after collapsing outside Los Angeles’ infamous Viper Room nightclub on Halloween night in 1993, after flying to Los Angeles fresh from the Utah set of his latest movie Dark Blood. Filming was 80% completed at the time of Phoenix’s death, but it took the movie’s Dutch director, George Sluizer, until this year to finish the feature; he premiered it at the Netherlands Film Festival in September, People notes.
In Dark Blood, Phoenix plays a widower named Boy who exiles himself to the desert and encounters two Hollywood actors whose car breaks down during a romantic getaway, according to Variety.
“Phoenix exerts a suitably charismatic and commanding air in his final role, making Boy a complex, fully mature character,” Variety says.
Sluizer, now 80, used his own voice-overs to fill in some plot holes and construct a “coherent vision,” Variety reports. Sluizer told People he had been invited to show Dark Blood at other festivals, but he hoped it would get a wider release.
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Variety writes that it is a “miracle” Dark Blood has been produced at all. It was forced to screen for free at the Holland showing as several rights issues remain unresolved. When the film was abandoned following Phoenix’s death, an insurance company took over the footage and then tried to have it destroyed in 1999 to cut back on storage costs. Sluizer quickly had it removed from the company’s possession, Variety notes.
“They might say ‘stolen,’ though I prefer the word saved,” Sluizer reportedly joked to the audience in the Netherlands.
Sluizer had to rely on crowdfunding and Dutch institutional support to finance the movie’s last stages, according to Variety. Sluizer says at the beginning of the film that he stills feels it is incomplete.
Before his sudden death, Phoenix starred in such popular films as Stand by Me and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He was set to star alongside Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire. His siblings Joaquin, Rain, Liberty and Summer Phoenix are all actors.