Dutch director was best known for The Vanishing and River Phoenix’s last film, Dark Blood.

George Sluizer, the Dutch director best known for The Vanishing and Dark Blood, River Phoenix’s last film, died in Amsterdam on Saturday (Sept 20) following a long illness, according to Dutch media. He was 82.

“Sluizer had been ill for a long time. In 2007 he barely survived a ruptured artery and after that his health remained fragile,” according to Dutch public broadcaster NOS, quoting relatives.

The director, producer and screenwriter was born in Paris, where he attended the IDHEC film academy.

He made his first film in 1961, Hold Back the Sea, a documentary that won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

Up until the early 1980s, Sluizer produced and directed many documentaries and TV specials. He also worked as a producer on numerous films, including Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Cancer Rising with Rutger Hauer.

As a writer/director he made his first feature film in 1971, Joao And The Knife, which was followed by Twice A Woman with Anthony Perkins and Bibi Andersson, and Red Desert Penitentiary.

He received worldwide recognition in 1988 with Spoorloos (The Vanishing), which won several awards and was the Dutch entry for the 1989 Academy Awards. In 1992 he directed a remake of The Vanishing for 20th Century Fox, starring Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock.

In 1991 Sluizer directed an adaptation of Bruce Chatwin’s novel Utz, starring Armin Mueller-Stahl (Best Actor in Berlin 1992).

In 1993, Sluizer was in the midst of shooting Dark Blood when production came crashing to a halt after the film’s star, River Phoenix, died of an accidental overdose. After years of sitting in an insurance company vault, the film’s director rescued the footage from a planned incineration. It was shopped at AFM last November and Lionsgate took VOD rights in May.

Crimetime followed in 1995, a thriller about the effects of reality TV, starring Stephen Baldwin and Pete Postlethwaite. In 1996, Sluizer produced and co-directed the nostalgic comedy Dying to Go Home and in 1997 he directed The Commissioner with John Hurt and Rosana Pastor.

He made his last film in 2002, The Stonecraft, based on the novel by Nobel Prize laureate José Saramago.

In an interview with ScreenDaily about Dark Blood, which he finished in 2012, Sluizer said: “For every artist it’s important to finish a creative work. It depends on how strong the urge is. I compare it to painters – one painter will absolutely finish a work and the other might leave it.

“For me when it became a real option to be able to do something with the outlet, I chose to do so. I call it creative urge.

“Maybe it was accentuated by the fact that in 2008 I got an aneurism and the doctors told me I would not live much longer; they said three to six months.

“It was the fact that I did not want to die before finishing Dark Blood.”

Click here to read the full interview

Paying tribute, Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said: “We mourn the loss of a great filmmaker, who has been equally active in fiction and documentary film. With his passion for filmmaking and exceptional versatility, George Sluizer will live on in our memories forever.”