River Phoenix, the unnervingly talented actor and elder brother to Joaquin Phoenix, was just 23 when he died of a drug overdose. At the time, he was about 80 percent through the arduous production of Dark Blood, which would become the final film in a short but legendary career that includes classics like My Own Private Idaho.
Dark Blood released a trailer today, confirming that the film will, more than two decades after its production, finally see a release. Phoenix plays Boy, a widower who lives on a desert nuclear testing site. One day, glamorous Hollywood couple Harry (Jonathan Pryce) and Buffy (Judy Davis) suffer a car breakdown nearby. Boy proceeds to hold the two hostage, with dreams of seducing Buffy and starting a new world.
Director George Sluizer had held onto the Dark Blood footage for close to 14 years. In 2007, when he was told an aneurysm would limit his remaining years, he decided to complete the film, glossing over the unfilmed scenes with voiceover narration. The result is still an unfinished product, but one whose dark story, striking imagery, and intense acting have produced critical acclaim on the festival circuit. The Phoenix family has declined to comment on, or be involved in, the film’s release. Dark Blood will be available on demand later this year.