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River Phoenix's last movie gets rare showing in Berlin, may never get general release

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BERLIN - The late River Phoenix's last movie, "Dark Blood," received a rare screening at the Berlin film festival Thursday — but its director said the picture may never go out for general release.

The movie was mothballed in 1993 when Phoenix died of a drug overdose shortly before filming was finished. Dutch director George Sluizer later recovered the reels and completed "Dark Blood" last year using voice-over narrative for some of the missing scenes.

First shown at a film festival in the Netherlands last year, it is running out of competition at the 63rd Berlinale.

Sluizer said negotiations for a general release are ongoing with the company that owns the movie.

"They are very tough," he told reporters in Berlin. "They are billionaires, money market people apparently, who by mistake have in their stock of hospitals and hotels a film. They don't care about movies and they don't care about culture, they care about money."

Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce said he had fond memories of working with Phoenix, who stars as a young widower living in the Arizona desert who takes a couple prisoner.

"At no time did I experience him using or abusing drugs in any way, shape or form," he said, adding that Phoenix appeared committed and serious about his work. "An old head on young shoulders," said Pryce of Phoenix.

Phoenix, the brother of Rain, Joaquin and Summer Phoenix, was 23 when he died in Los Angeles of heart failure after overdosing on heroin and cocaine.

American cinematographer Edward Lachman said some footage of Phoenix recorded on the set of "Dark Blood" that showed him walking toward the camera "like a ghost" inexplicably went missing.

"There were many things around this film that were very extraordinary," he said.

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