River Phoenix rises again as final movie finished

Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:30am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - American actor River Phoenix has returned to the big screen 20 years on from his death after "Dark Blood" director George Sluizer salvaged the footage of his incomplete 1993 film and filled in the gaps with voiceovers.

Phoenix was considered one of the most promising performers of his generation before he died suddenly of a suspected drug overdose aged 23, 10 days before shooting on "Dark Blood" was scheduled to finish.

British actor Jonathan Pryce, who starred alongside Phoenix and Judy Davis in the story of a couple who get lost in the American desert, said he had no reason to suspect the young star was taking drugs during six weeks of filming together.

"I found him a remarkable young man," Pryce told reporters after a press screening in Berlin.

"I can't believe now looking back that he was only 23 at the time, a kind of old head on young shoulders. He was absolutely delightful and wonderful to work with.

"In all the weeks we were together in Utah ... at no time did I experience him using drugs or abusing drugs in any way, shape or form. I'm not a drug user myself but I'd have known. It was a time in his life when he was very committed to not using drugs. I loved him a lot and I love his memory."

In "Dark Blood", Phoenix plays Boy, a disturbed young widower of Native American extraction, who rescues wealthy couple Harry and Buffy, played by Pryce and Davis, when their vintage Bentley breaks down in the middle of the desert.

Fearful of the forbidding landscape of scrub and canyon and the fierce heat, the couple are relieved, and Buffy is initially attracted to the dark, brooding loner who lives in an isolated wooden shack on the top of a hill.   Continued...

River Phoenix in a scene from the film Dark Blood. REUTERS/Berlin Film Festival