Update: The Phoenix family have released a statement denying Sluzier’s word that they were participating in getting “Dark Blood” finished saying, “Despite George Sluizer’s claim that he has been communicating with River Phoenix’s family in regard to releasing River’s last film, Joaquin Phoenix and his family have not been in communication with the director nor will they participate in any way.” So if Sluzier wants to finish the movie, he’ll have to do with the help of River’s family.
It has been almost two decades since River Phoenix died tragically on October 31, 1993, and his influence is still felt in Hollywood. James Franco recently paid tribute to the actor and his work with two film projects: “My Own Private River,” feature length movie cut together from the hours and hours of dailies from “My Own Private Idaho” that director Gus Van Sant had sitting around in Portland, and “Memories of Idaho,” a “ghost” version of the movie, with Franco utilizing one of the three scripts used for ‘Private’ and some of Van Sant’s own photography to create a more ephemeral work. But it looks like there may be some new/old River Phoenix footage to surface just yet. The actor was 11 days away from completing what is now regarded as his last film, “Dark Blood” (his last completed movie was Peter Bogdanovich‘s “This Thing Called Love“), but it now appears that the filmmaker has found a way to complete and is prepping it for what may possibly be a 2012 release.
Directed by George Sluizer — best known for helming the Dutch film “The Vanishing” (as well as the U.S. remake) — “Dark Blood” centered on a young, widowed man who lives on a remote nuclear testing site, who takes in a jet-set couple (Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce) when their car breaks down, and begins a troubled relationship with the former. For a while Sluizer had said he would be using the footage for a documentary, but it appears he’s found a way to finish the movie. THR reports that Sluizer will re-cut the footage and plans to use voiceover to patch up narrative gaps. And who will stand in for River? Sluizer plans to reach out to none other than his little bro, Joaquin.
“The voices of both brothers are very much alike,” the director told THR, who says he’s still in touch with Phoenix family. However, there are still some hurdles to clear. Joaquin Phoenix is not yet confirmed — Sluizer hasn’t asked him yet — and there are still some legal issues around the movie, which will cause the title to be changed. And while we’d like to believe the film will arrive next year, legal untangling always winds up taking longer than people generally optimistically project. But it is heartening that Sluizer is trying to find a way to finish the movie, and we’ll be curious to see if and when it does surface. River Phoenix would have be 41 today if he had lived, which boggles the mind, and surely had he shaken his demons and continued working, he’d be in a league with Sean Penn and Brad Pitt.
But for now, “Dark Blood” remains a bit of a mystery. You can see some footage below in this Dutch documentary/EPK on the movie. Granted, most of it you might not understand but it’s worth hearing for the tales of how Judy Davis was essentially unmanageable on the set, refusing to speak to Sluizer and generally being a total nightmare.