George Sluizer dies at 82; directed River Phoenix’s last movie

George Sluizer
George Sluizer resumed work years later on “Dark Blood” after putting it aside over the death of River Phoenix.
(Markus Schreiber, Associated Press)

George Sluizer, 82, the Dutch filmmaker who directed River Phoenix’s last movie, “Dark Blood,” died Saturday “after a long illness,” according to organizers of the Netherlands Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival.

The specific cause was not given. Sluizer (pronounced SLY-zer) suffered from arterial disease and narrowly survived a tear in his aorta in 2007 — one of the reasons he decided to resume editing “Dark Blood.”

In a career that spanned five decades, Sluizer’s most celebrated work was the 1988 thriller “Spoorloos,” or “The Vanishing,” about a man’s quest to find out what happened to his girlfriend after she disappeared without a trace during a stop at a gas station.

Sluizer directed a 1993 American remake of “The Vanishing” starring Jeff Bridges, Nancy Travis and Kiefer Sutherland, but it was less successful, in part because the dark ending of the original was lightened.


“Dark Blood” was only two-thirds complete in 1993 when Phoenix, 23, died of a drug-induced heart attack in front of a West Hollywood nightclub.

“It was a real shock,” Sluizer told The Times in a 2013 interview. “You have to go on, but I felt like I’m not sure I care about making films anymore, with actors dying under me.”

The film, a psychological thriller co-starring Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis, was left untouched for years, but Sluizer saved it from destruction in 1998. After his brush with death in 2007, he began editing an altered version of the film, which was presented five years later at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Sluizer, who was born in Paris and maintained a residence there, was also a documentary maker and writer.


Times staff and wire reports