River Phoenix's Last Film Finally Surfacing—18 Years After His Death

Fans of the late actor will finally see this last work if the director has his way

By Josh Grossberg Oct 19, 2011 6:59 PMTags

River Phoenix's last performance may finally see the light of day.

Dutch director George Sluizer has announced that he intends to complete the 1993 drama Dark Blood, which he was forced to abandon after the 23-year-old star's death from a drug overdose on Oct. 31 of that year. At the time of Phoenix's death, there were still several weeks of filming remaining.

That's good news for Phoenix fans who've had to settle for scraps of the film, which has since surfaced online.

The director told the The Hollywood Reporter that as the owner of the footage, he's since re-edited Dark Blood in a way that he feels confident can finally be released with a little help from Phoenix's younger brother, Joaquin Phoenix, whom he hopes will provide voiceovers to help finish the job his late brother started.

In 1993, during a break from production, Phoenix died on Halloween night outside of The Viper Room—a nightclub partly owned by Johnny Depp at the time—where the actor, brother Joaquin and their sister Rain were with friends. It was later determined that he had taken an overdose of cocaine and heroin, as well as amounts of marijuana, Valium and a cold medicine.

Following the tragedy, Sluizer—who's best known for his 1988 Franco-Dutch film, The Vanishing, which he remade five years later with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland—locked the footage away fearing it might be destroyed.

In Dark Blood, Phoenix played a young widower and drifter named "Boy" who lives as a hermit on a nuclear testing site imagining the end of the world. He subsequently comes to the aid of a couple whose car breaks down in the desert and ends up in a love triangle with the wife. The film costarred Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis.

Production was shut down by the insurance company after producers were unable to recast the role and found it too expensive to start over.

After mulling the idea of using the footage for a proposed documentary on River's life, Sluizer told the trade he decided to revisit the project after remaining in touch with Phoenix's family and noting the similarities between River and Joaquin.

"The voices of both brothers are very much alike," he said.

Eyeworks, a Dutch production house, has signed on to see the filmmaker to the finish line including providing legal assistance, though a rep for the company has indicated the title may be changed due to copyright claims.

If all goes according to plan, Dark Blood (or whatever they end up calling it) will appear in theaters sometime next year.