It’s been 18 years since River Phoenix tragically died outside a club on Sunset Boulevard after ingesting more narcotics than your average drugs mule, but James Franco has unveiled a powerful ode to the tragic star in the form of a 100 minute film made up of unseen footage from Phoenix’s final piece, My Own Private Idaho.
Working with original director Gus Van Sant, the Oscar host (who has been busier than a one armed builder from Baghdad in recent months..) premiered the spliced film at the Kodak Theatre in Beverly Hills just days before the Academy Awards.
Dubbed My Own Private River by Franco, the film – which is set to a score by REM’s Michael Stipe – is presented as a study of the performance of one of the most talented young actors of the 80s and 90s. Phoenix is well-remembered for his roles in Stand By Me, The Mosquito Coast and the Oscar nominated Running On Empty, but it was his portrayal of a drug-addled street hustler in Idaho that won him lasting acclaim.
Van Sant shot hours of footage for the 1991 film, most of which includes Phoenix and co-star Keanu Reeves doing little more than living out their character’s lives. “There’s a basic structure, as we follow Mike Waters around Portland, Oregon, shopping at a grocery store, scoring drugs and having sex with clients, but there’s no real narrative on offer,” says a film critic from The Guardian.