River Phoenix was 11 days away from completing his role in ‘Dark Blood’ when he died of a drug overdose outside The Viper Room nightclub in Hollywood in 1993.
At the time, the studio canned the film because it was cost-prohibitive to replace Rivers or edit around his absence. The footage sat in a vault for several years until the movie’s director, George Sluizer, heard it was going to be burned to make space. He acted quickly to organize a heist of the footage and move it to the Netherlands.
After suffering a health scare that left him near death, Sluizer decided to finish the film. “I said, well I want to finish the film and to leave not a garbage bag of film, but something decent,” Sluizer tells the BBC. “I did my best, with the material I had, to make it an understandable and plausible story. Apparently people say it works.”
“Dark Blood” will make its U.S. debut in March at the Miami International Film Festival.
Here’s a scene from the movie, which centers on a couple — Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis — who drive through the desert to repair their marriage and fall prey to Phoenix’s character.