Neil Jimenez, who won three Indie Spirit Awards for writing River’s Edge and writing and co-directing The Waterdance, has died. He was 62. His sister, Kathleen Serio, said Jimenez died December 11 of heart failure in Arroyo Grande, CA.
Jimenez won his first Spirit Award in 1988 for his screenplay to River’s Edge, the Tim Hunter-directed thriller whose stacked cast included Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye and Dennis Hopper. The 1986 pic about a group of California friends who get ensnarled in a murder and cover-up also won Best Feature at the Spirits that year and was a nominee for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
The Sacramento native went on to pen or co-write the scripts for Where the River Runs Black (1986) and The Dark Wind (1991) and the story for Bette Midler period drama For the Boys (1991). Jimenez’s next project was The Waterdance, which starred Eric Stoltz as a man coming to terms with paraplegia after a hiking accident. Helen Hunt and Wesley Snipes also starred in the film, which won Indie Spirits for Jimenez’s script and Best First Feature. It also took the Audience Award at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for its Grand Jury Prize. Jimenez, a paraplegic himself who used a wheelchair, also won the fest’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for the pic.
Many top critics including Roger Ebert and The New York Times‘ Vincent Canby praised the film.
“His writing voice is seductive, powerful and wholly unique — like a complex minor chord with a range that could move in any direction,” The Waterdance co-director Michael Steinberg said. “Dark, hilarious, romantic, political, gritty, fantastical, poetic. … Jimenez, like Tarantino, and The Farrelly Brothers, had a voice strong enough to bend cinema.”
Jimenez later co-wrote Sleep with Me (1994) and Hideaway (1995).
“My brother had a passion for writing and creating,” his sister, Elizabeth Rathjen, said in a statement. “The clack of typing seemed to daily come through his bedroom walls. He had drawers full of typed pages and journals filled with his words and ink doodles. He wrote then because he had to, he needed to and he wanted to. I always imagined walking into a bookstore and seeing books authored by my brother. Instead it was a video store and movies.”