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"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."
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.
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?' "
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