River Phoenix’s final film, Dark Blood, looks like it is set to première this September, nearly 20 years after the actor’s death.
Phoenix collapsed and died of drug-induced heart failure back in 1993 outside Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room, which was part-owned by Johnny Depp at the time. He had returned to LA earlier that week to complete the final three weeks of interior shots left to film on Dark Blood, but the project was never finished.
However, Dark Blood‘s Dutch director George Sluizer held on to the footage that he had already shot, which reportedly made up approximately 80% of the film. Although the film had remained largely untouched since the actor’s death, Sluizer was prompted to finish the project amidst concerns for his health, after he recently became ill.
“It came as an urgency to me…I also know that there was still good film material,” said Sluizer, speaking via the Dutch CineCrowd website (similar to Kickstarter in the US) where he appealed for crowd-financing to complete post-production and editing. The 80-year-old, who is perhaps best known for directing two versions of The Vanishing (1988 in Holland and 1992 in the USA), was also able to secure financing from the Netherlands Film Fund in order to complete the film.
Sluizer was said to be hopeful that Phoenix’s younger brother, two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix, might step in to provide assistance in finishing the film, but the Phoenix family have reportedly declined to participate in the production. The director has since stated that he has found a “straightforward way” of completing the remainder of the film, although he has been reluctant to reveal the exact details of what this entails.
Dark Blood sees Phoenix take on the role of Boy – a young widower who lost his wife to nuclear testing. Living as a recluse in the desert waiting for the world to end and making Native American, Hopi Kachina dolls that he believes have magical powers , he rescues a honey-mooning couple who become stranded when their car breaks down. However, the couple, played by Jonathan Pryce (Carrington, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives, Children of the Revolution), soon find themselves held hostage by their rescuer.
Despite being just 23-years-old, Phoenix had already become something of a household name within Hollywood – often compared to the likes of Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt – praised for his role in the coming-of-age drama Stand By Me, as well as Running on Empty and My Own Private Idaho, amongst others. After his death, a number of roles for which he had been mooted were given to Leonardo DiCaprio, including that of Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries, Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse and Jack Dawson in Titanic.
Phoenix had also signed on to play the lead role in John Boorman’s Broken Dream, which was put on hold following his death. Boorman has reportedly been searching for the right actor to play the part ever since and last month it was announced that Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class) would take on the role.
Dark Blood, which Sluizer has described as has “tribute” to the late Phoenix will receive its première at the Netherlands Film Festival this September. Meanwhile, you can take a look at the trailer below!