It's a common Hollywood scenario: A young, talented actor overdoses and dies too young. On Halloween 1993, that became the River Phoenix story.
At the time of his death at 23, Phoenix was considered one of his generation’s greatest actors with movies like Stand by Me, Running on Empty, The Mosquito Coast and My Own Private Idaho under his belt.
Now, the movie he was making the night he collapsed outside the Viper Room club in Los Angeles —which was shelved 80 percent complete — has been finished by its Danish director, George Sluizer, who is fighting to win the movie wide distribution.
In the newly finished Dark Blood, a voice-over by Sluizer is used to explain to the audience the parts where Phoenix is missing. And he says the up-front method worked.
Dark Blood premiered in September at the Netherlands Film Festival. Sluizer is looking to get the movie into theaters everywhere. For now, he said he has received 25 invitations to show the movie at film festivals – unknown if March’s Miami International Film Festival is among them.
Dark Blood is about a young man played by Phoenix who goes to live in the desert after a personal tragedy. In the desert he encounters two stranded vacationers played by Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce.
The day before Phoenix died the crew had arrived in Los Angeles for 11 days of interiors after seven weeks of shooting in the Utah desert. Those scenes, mostly close-ups, were never shot.
Sluizer recently told Entertainment Weekly, Phoenix’s absence from the finished product doesn’t destroy the plot.
“It’s a complete film,” he said. “It’s not pieces stuck together. It has a beginning and it goes up to the end, like it should.”