It has been almost 18 years since the sudden death of River Phoenix outside Johnny Depp's Hollywood night club, The Viper Room, after a drug overdose from cocaine and heroin, but that doesn't mean that the young movie star, who was 23 at the time of his death, or his films have been forgotten.

Now it looks like Dutch director George Sluizer, who was shooting the Phoenix film Dark Blood and had 11 days to go on production when Phoenix suffered his fatal collapse, is going to release a finished version of Phoenix's final film.

But why did it take so long? Dark Blood was reportedly repossessed by the film's insurance company after it was determined that there was no cost-effective way to save the film in the absence of the final shoots, reports Entertainment Weekly. It was then shelved until 1999, when Sluizer discovered that the insurers weren't going to shell out the money to store it anymore.

“That’s when I said, ‘No, no, I’m going to save it from destruction,’" Sluizer said, though he is remotely vague about the details of how Dark Blood wound up back in his possession. “I have good assistants, if I can put it this way, and some people who are clever in finding the right key. I am an enterprising person.”


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It still sat dormant in Sluizer's possession until he himself suffered a near-fatal heart attack that affected his perception of things. "I had the feeling that I had to finish the creative work which hundreds of people had done together, so that it would be there for anyone who wanted to see it. I said, 'I want to finish the film before whatever happens. At least I will finish my job as best as I could.'"

Dark Blood stars Phoenix as a hermit who lives in the desert waiting for the world to end before he romances an older woman who's just passing through, played by Judy Davis. Jonathan Pryce and Karen Black also star in the film.

Sluizer, who also directed the acclaimed Spoorloos in 1988 and remade it into 1993's The Vanishing with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, wants Joaquin Phoenix, 37, who currently stars in the highly controversial The Master with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, to play the voiceover of his late brother's character, Boy. "The voices of both brothers are very much alike," he told the Hollywood Reporter.

It is not yet clear when or in what format Dark Blood will be released.

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