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George Sluizer agreed to grant me an interview for the website on the occasion of the Dark Blood premiere at the Netherlands Film Festival. Here it is.
River Phoenix Pages : I saw the documentary Filmen Over Grenzen right before Dark Blood, and it answered some of the questions I had about the making of that movie. I hope other River fans will be able to catch a subbed version of it. In short, there was a lot of tension on the set, mostly due to Judy Davis and her disagreement with you, what Nik Powell describes in the documentary as "two control freaks on a movie set". You made a reference to that reputation of yours in your speech after the movie. Would you mind telling us how you dealt with that situation, and how River himself did?
George Sluizer : Regarding Judy, I just had to deal with the situation. Not a friendly one, but it did not affect the acting.
River did not like Judy, who was not nice to him either. He asked me to postpone the more intimate scenes to the end of the shooting , because he did not like the idea of touching her arm!!
RPP : Jonathan Pryce also alluded to problems due to the location. Do you recall any particular incident about filming in this desert of Utah? It does give a claustrophobic vibe to the movie even though it's technically in open air.
George Sluizer :There were no problems in the desert where we shot, but people (even film people) are spoilt and prefer easy locations to far away ones.
RPP : The part of the Boy is quite dark and far from his personal image. What made you consider him for the part? Was he your first choice?
George Sluizer : River was my first choice. I had seen most of his films and thought he would fit the part of BOY.
RPP : It wasn't the first time that he picked roles that were very different from this image. Did you feel that was a factor in choosing that part and the movie?
George Sluizer :River was interested in doing different parts, not repeating in all films the same image of himself. I think he saw Dark Blood as a challenge.
RPP : What was your relationship with River? In a recent documentary you said you felt you became a sort of father figure for him on set?
George Sluizer :My relationship with River was good. I am much older than him , so the father-son idea comes quickly to mind. I was more a friend than a classical father.
RPP : You're one of the few people who worked with River who commented about him after the initial media frenzy around his death. For a long while, there seemed to be a silence around him. What do you think explains that silence? Was it only grief? Was it bad press to be associated to him and the overdose that took his life?
George Sluizer :I don't really know if what you assume is true. People forget easily and maybe the fact that he was not as "sweet" and "correct" as people thought might have had an influence..
RPP : From all records, you had to fight a lot of reluctance from many of the people involved in the movie to finally complete this version of it. Of course there were financial problems, but not only. Was that part of it?
George Sluizer :In 1993 there was a disagreement between the insurance co. and the bank which cashflowed the film. The film was locked up from 1993 to 1999. No one could get at it. End 1999 when de insurance was going to destroy the filmmaterial, I removed it and saved it from destruction. Then shipped to Europe where it lay quietly until 2009 while I was making other movies. I had never lost the wish to have the film "completed". When I got my aneurysma the urge became stronger also because the doctors did not give me much time. The only difficulty I had was to raise the money to be able to do the post-production without anybody's interference.
RPP : In an interview, soon after River's death, Ed Lachman, the director of photography, said that you did ten takes of the soliloquy, the last day we shot with him on Dark Blood. And that on the last take he forgot to cut the camera right away, so for ten seconds River was in front of the camera, "just a silhouette lit by ambient light". I was always curious to see that take because of how Ed Lachman had described it. Did this scene make it into the final cut of the movie?
George Sluizer :The shot of River described by Ed Lachman mysteriously disappeared after River's death I suppose. I never had it in the rushes.(dailies).
RPP : Articles about how you decided to complete Dark Blood after a near death experience make it sound a bit spooky. Is it medias giving a sensationalist twist to it, or are you superstitious about it?
George Sluizer :I am not superstitious, very pragmatical when needed. Ovbiously as you must know the media exaggerate nearly every incident or event. The newspapers, radio ,TV have to make money...Shit sells better than beauty ...unfortunately..
RPP : I heard you're currently trying to solve legal matters to give the movie a proper release. How is it going?
George Sluizer :Legal matters are just about settled.