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Heart Phoenix

Los Angeles

Iris Burton

Jonathan Pryce

George Sluizer

Dark Blood

Samantha Mathis

The Thing Called Love

My Own Private Idaho

Gus Van Sant

Jim Barton


Judy Davis

The Vanishing

Jeff Bridges

Kiefer Sutherland

My Brilliant Career


Abby Rude

New Mexico

Environment, Environmental Concerns, Green, Green Issues

Ed Lachman

Blood and Wine
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

Dark Blood

Director:George Sluizer
Screenplay:Jim Barton

"It took a few thousand years just to invent the alphabet and it's all going to be flushed down the john, the entire civilization."

Judy Davis, River and Jonathan Pryce on the Utah desert based location of Dark Blood.

Dealing with nuclear testing and its long-lasting, deadly effects, the movie portrays Boy, a widower living on a nuclear testing site. Living as a hermit he waits for the end of the world making little dolls that he believes have magical powers. The other two characters in the movie are a husband and wife played by Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis. Whilst driving through the desert their car breaks down and they are rescued by Boy.

After seeing River's powerful performance in My Own Private Idaho, Dutch director George Sluizer sent the script to Iris Burton but encountered the same reaction that Gus Van Sant had with his Idaho script. River's agent initially felt the script was unsuitable and rejected it but would later change her mind after seeing Sluizer's earlier work The Vanishing starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland.

George Sluizer and River on the Utah desert based location of Dark Blood.

River immediately identified with the movie's environmental message and Sluizer was charmed by him at their first meeting and taken aback by River's intense interest in the project.

Talking of the movie and his character, Boy, River said, "I play a man who becomes a hermit after his wife's death and moves to a wasteland in the Utah desert. One day he helps a couple whose car has seized up and a love triangle develops."

The director of photography for the movie, Ed Lachman, recalls one incident that took place just a week before River died. "We were in Gallup, New Mexico, on the road. I had a lot of cases in my room, film equipment. I came out into the hall and said, 'Can someone help me with my gear?' Somebody said, 'Yeah.' I didn't see who it was - I didn't have my glasses on. I went back into my room and brushed my teeth. There's a knock on the door, and it's River. I go, 'River, what are you doing here?' He said, 'I came to help you.' I said, 'I didn't mean you!' He said, 'Why can't I help ya?' "

More blood for Judy Davis in the
violent 1997 thriller Blood and Wine.

From the beginning of production there was tension on the set between the director and Judy Davis, star of My Brilliant Career. River would find himself reluctantly having to arbitrate the disagreements. This would eventually lead to River and Davis being unable to work together to such a degree that River was unable to play the love scenes with her and a body-double was called in.

Samantha Mathis, River's co-star from his previous film, The Thing Called Love stayed with him on the filming site in Utah for emotional support. Also there was River's personal assistant Abby Rude who, whilst researching for his role, had discovered some terrible facts about nuclear testing, facts that infuriated River. River effectively used that anger when playing his character. When Samantha Mathis had to return to Los Angeles, and with the bad atmosphere on the set placing increasing pressure on him, River asked his mother to join him on the set to give support.

Because of heavy rains, the entire area quickly turned to mud making travelling around in vehicles an enormous risk when production took place on the edges of shear cliffs. Morale on the set soon dropped to an all-time low. "Somebody's going to die on this film," said River.

And somebody did.

"River had that kind of charisma which made you like him, love him and care for him, so the first think I felt was devastation."

- George Sluizer

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