• Germany's news in English
 
Berlinale 2013
River Phoenix haunts last movie 20 years on
Photo: DPA

River Phoenix haunts last movie 20 years on

Published: 15 Feb 2013 07:03 GMT+01:00

The contemporary Western "Dark Blood" includes what is believed to be the last footage of Phoenix, who died aged 23 of a drug overdose just 10 days before he was meant to finish the shoot.

Dutch director George Sluizer, now 80, resumed work on the film in 2009 and narrates missing scenes aloud over still frames in the completed movie.

The picture, which runs for just under 90 minutes, tells the story of Boy, a grieving young widower with Native American roots who is living at a nuclear testing facility in the desert after his wife died of radiation exposure.

While waiting for the world to end, he picks up a feuding wealthy couple travelling through the same area (Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis) when their Bentley breaks down.

Boy is drawn to the attractive wife, the former Las Vegas showgirl Buffy, and refuses to let the couple go, thinking he can convince her to join his one-man doomsday cult.

Pryce told a news conference in Berlin after a screening that drew a mixed reception that he had been impressed with Phoenix "and I love his memory."

"I found him a remarkable young man - I can't believe now looking back that he was only 23 at the time. It's that kind of old head on young shoulders," he said.

"But he was absolutely delightful, he was wonderful to work with, he was very committed, very serious about his work."

Sluizer said he had once joked with Phoenix, whom he called a "gentle actor", about whether he minded working with a director much older than himself.

"And he said: 'George, I respect people who are older than myself because they are wiser and more experienced'," he said.

The picture, shot in Utah and New Mexico, underwent an odyssey after Phoenix's death when an insurance company took possession of the unfinished footage.

In 1999, Sluizer bought the material to rescue it days before it was slated for destruction and said that after he had a near-fatal aneurysm, he decided he had to finish the project before it was too late.

But he said that beyond the footage that he was unable to shoot due to Phoenix's death, key reels had also gone missing in the intervening years.

"It made it necessary to rethink the story and what could be told to eventually make it understandable for an audience and pleasurable to watch," he said.

Phoenix shot to stardom with brooding performances in hits such as Rob Reiner's "Stand By Me" and as a narcoleptic gay hustler in Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho" in which he played opposite a young Keanu Reeves.

He was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1988 drama "Running on Empty."

His sudden death in 1993 of drug-induced heart failure outside Johnny Depp's Los Angeles club, the Viper Room, made Phoenix into a kind of James Dean of his generation.

Pryce said he believed he was trying to kick drugs at the end of his life.

"In all the weeks we were together in Utah - and I did spend every day almost all day with him - at no time did I experience him using drugs or abusing drugs in any way, shape or form," he said.

"I'm not a drug user myself but I'd have known. He was at a point in his life that he was very committed to not using drugs and it was apparent."

River was the older brother of other actor members of the Phoenix clan including Joaquin, who is up for an Oscar this year for his work in the Scientology saga "The Master."

Sluizer said the Phoenix family had not wanted to participate in the project, but that he spoke with his mother who "wishes the best for the film."

"Dark Blood" is screening out of competition at the 63rd Berlinale, which will award its Golden and Silver Bear top prizes on Saturday.

AFP/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany
Joachim Löw holding the World Cup trophy. File photo: DPA

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany

World Cup winners Germany have suffered something of a hangover since their triumph in Brazil, but coach Joachim Löw is hoping a new-look side can go on to claim more glory at Euro 2016. READ  

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges
Photo: DPA

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges

German mobile phone company T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $90 million to settle US government claims that it bilked customers with bogus charges, US regulators said Friday. READ  

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law
Photo: DPA

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law

The German Ethics Council said the law should not be changed to permit assisted suicide in a paper published on Friday. READ  

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin
Swan Lake. An abandoned ride in the Spreewald pleasure park. Photo: DPA

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin

The iconic ruined themepark in the centre of Berlin - a long-time favourite of hipster adventurers - needs a clean-up costing at least 14 million euros, the Berlin government has revealed. READ  

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer
File photo of Nuremberg main station: Shutterstock

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer

Officers in Nuremberg arrested a man on Thursday evening after he called in a false bomb threat against the main train station READ  

Opinion
Angela, David...and Nigel
So near...and yet so far Photo: DPA

Angela, David...and Nigel

The rise of UKIP broke up what had been a good 2014 for Cameron and Merkel. READ  

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead
Dr Gunther von Hagens. Photo: DPA

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead

A Berlin court has said that infamous human taxidermist Gunther von Hagens can open a museum in the capital - over objections from local officials. READ  

Presented by Phorms Education
Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech
Photo: Phorms Education

Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech

As parents fret over children’s internet habits, a network of bilingual schools in Germany shows that putting computers in the classroom from an early age yields positive results. READ  

Networks scramble to patch mobile security
Chancellor Angela Merkel has herself been the victim of phone hacking. Photo: DPA

Networks scramble to patch mobile security

IT experts led by Berlin-based Karsten Nohl said on Thursday they had discovered security flaws in the mobile phone networks that would allow attackers to read users' messages. READ  

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport
Photo: DPA

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport

Three men suspected of being Turkish agents have been arrested by police, federal prosecutors said on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,228
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd