River Phoenix Rises Again

Actor and musician River Phoenix died from drug-induced heart failure in 1993. Only 23 years old, Phoenix had delivered intense, emotional performances in movies like Stand By Me, Running on Empty, Dogfight and My Own Private Idaho, and he was working on a film called Dark Blood when he passed away. That film will finally make its U.S. premiere at the Miami Film Festival during the first ten days of March. I mentioned this on Coincidence Control Network months ago and wanted to keep everybody updated.

This BlackBook post fills in the details:

As heartbreaking as the all too short life is, his legacy will be revived this year at the Miami International Film Festival when director George Sluizer debuts Phoenix’s the final film. When Phoenix passed away in 1993, Sluizer’s Dark Blood was 80% completed, and the unfinished footage disappeared into a vault somewhere. But in 1999, when he learned that the remains would be burned “to make space,” Sluizer brought the film to the Netherlands. After a decade of stillness, Dark Blood was finally completed last year, premiering to a standing ovation at the Dutch Film Festival.

Check out this trailer for Dark Blood. What’s your favorite River Phoenix film?

Read a synopsis of the new film at Joe Nolan’s Insomnia.

Stay Awake!


Joe Nolan was born under a bad sign on June 13th in Detroit, Michigan in the last Metal Year of the Dog. Polymath, provocateur, inter-media artist, his tell-tale signs have turned up in music, visual art, journalism, poetry, fiction, video and film. A double Gemini, his interests range from the pharmacology of phenomenology to fly fishing; from mysticism to mixed martial arts; from chaos science to chaos magick. Joe Nolan's Insomnia blog republishes to some of the most read counter-culture sites on the web and the Coincidence Control Network podcast which he hosts has been downloaded more than half-a-million times.He is recording his fourth CD in Nashville, Tennessee where he lives to the east of the Cumberland river on a little wooded lot dubbed Bohemian Walnut Grove.

Latest posts by JoeNolan (see all)

6 Comments on "River Phoenix Rises Again"

  1. Wow…back from the grave after 20 years. I admit…I hafta see this just to be able to say I’ve seen it…and to quell my curiosity.

    • Yeah. Its a bit of a sketchy scene as I’ve heard that his family is against the film being shown, but, as a film fan, I’d love to see it. I understand the family’s protecting their brother/son, but as an admirer of his acting I’d love to see his work in this.Thanks for the comment. What does everybody else think?

      • I heard that Sluizer read a letter from The Phoenix Family, at his Dutch premiere and it was a pretty peaceful and encouraging one, although they reiterated in it that they’d made a long-term decision to not be involved with any promotion of River’s imagery or any future projects that arise from his past work.
        They did, however, wish Sluizer well in completing his project. The impression I got, was that this controversy wasn’t a personal hit at Sluizer but involved a conflict with how the family had agreed to deal with River’s Public legacy.

  2. What’s my favorite River Phoenix film? Since we’re talking about the best actor of our generation, it’s hard to pick just one. Onscreen, he was electric — this lightening rod of humanity, that had more expression and emotional nuance in his little finger, than any other actor I can remember. But if I had to pick just one, it would have to be “My Own Private Idaho”, for his being able to communicate volumes of experience on little dialogue and for making an unlikely character universally relatable and familiar.
    He had the onscreen grace of classic, silent film stars and a personal grace in spirit, that went far deeper than his work. I wish I could get a chance to see “Dark Blood” on the big screen but I’d even settle for a chance to see it on dvd. I just hope many people will be given the chance to see what extraordinary acting looks like.

    • Idaho is really great and the Criterion release is a must-have if you’re a fan. So well cast and acted and filmed. However, for me, Dogfight gives it a run for its money. What other ones am I forgetting?

      • Oh, I just love “Dogfight”. It’s actually my favorite love story because it’s so authentic in how it shows unlikely people connecting in this primal way, this way of deep attraction that is initially unexplainable. It shouldn’t make sense but it does and it’s impossible to ignore. You would never think of it from the way the film starts, but “Dogfight” is a very tender story and they were a great onscreen match of chemistry and abilities.

        I thought River’s performance in “The Mosquito Coast” was so natural and intuitive for a young guy. It’s hard to pick just one film because they’re all special in their own ways and River is so graceful and nuanced onscreen, that subtle little mannerisms stand-out; the way he tilts his head and makes eye contact with the cops, trying to look as tough as his gentle self can look as “Devo” in “I Love You to Death”. The way he collapses into Martha Plimpton as they’re dancing in “Running on Empty”. The way he blocks himself in scenes, moves across Lili Taylor’s character, Rose, as he turns-on the music boxes in “Dogfight”. He’s all in — his whole body dances through these lines and his subtlety makes it all seem so real and improvised. I even love how he leans in, in an attempt to seduce Judy Davis’ character in a clip I saw of “Dark Blood”; he moves in and just hangs close enough to her, not forcefully — he just stays near enough, to generate heat. He was such a talented actor.

Comments are closed.