In 2011, we first reported on the “lost” River Phoenix film that the actor was shooting right before he tragically died from drug-induced heart failure in 1993. Dark Blood has a strange, long history — and audiences will finally get to see the movie when it is released by Lionsgate, 20 years after it was made. THR reports that the company picked up rights to Phoenix’s final film at Cannes this week.
After Phoenix’s death, producers shut down production on Dark Blood, the Phoenix family sued to prevent it ever seeing the light of day, and the insurance company locked it away. Dutch director George Sluizer (The Vanishing) claims he discovered the footage in a warehouse in London and recovered the reels in the middle of the night. There was some sound reworking that needed to be done. We previously reported that Sluizer was going to try to get brother Joaquin to do the voiceover for the deceased actor’s character, Boy, but the family has since refused all participation.
“The negatives were still good, but part of the sound needed to be rebuilt and rerecorded. And only 65 percent of the story was shot… so I had to rewrite the story,” Sluizer stated. The narrative centers on Boy (Phoenix), a “hermit living in the desert on a nuclear testing site [who] waits for the end of the world.” A “Hollywood jet-set couple” finds their way into Boy’s world (Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce) and becomes his prisoners and playthings.
Twenty-three-year-old Phoenix had a promising career ahead of him. Should Dark Blood have stayed locked away forever, or are the fans getting the project they deserve?
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