news Neal Jimenez, ‘River’s Edge’ Screenwriter, Dead at 62

Neal Jimenez, the American independent filmmaker who won an Independent Spirit Award for writing the 1986 cult classic “River’s Edge,” died on December 11, IndieWire has learned. He was 62 years old.

Jimenez also wrote and co-directed, with Michael Steinberg, the 1992 indie “The Waterdance,” which won Best First Feature and Best Screenplay at the 1993 Spirit Awards. The cause of death was heart failure, said his sister, Kathleen Serio. He lived on a six-acre Arroyo Grande ranch in Central Coast, Calif., where he spent the last decade of his life with family and friends while dealing with paraplegia.

Jimenez also had writing credits on “Where the River Runs Black” (1986), “For the Boys” (1991), “The Dark Wind” (1991), “Sleep with Me” (1994), and “Hideaway” (1995). Early in his career, Jimenez was revered as a script doctor, commanding fees of $100,000 per day on films including 1995’s “Outbreak.” Throughout his career, he was also commissioned to write scripts for Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Peterson, Atom Egoyan, Robert Redford, Madonna, Tom Hanks, and more.

“His writing voice is seductive, powerful, and wholly unique,” “The Waterdance” director Michael Steinberg said in a statement. “Like a complex minor chord with a range that could move in any direction. Dark, hilarious, romantic, political, gritty, fantastical, poetic. In the 40 years since meeting Neal, I’ve worked with dozens of big names and huge talents. But only a handful of true, genius-level artists. Jimenez, like Tarantino, and the Farrelly Brothers, had a voice strong enough to bend cinema.”

Neal Jimenez

Neal Jimenez

Courtesy Valhalla Entertainment

Born in Sacramento, Jimenez started out writing plays and making Super 8 films at a young age before contributing to publications including LA Weekly and California Magazine. While at UCLA Film School, he wrote “River’s Edge” at 21, the film that put him on the map. Starring Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, and Dennis Hopper, the coming-of-age thriller is now regarded as a cult classic of the 1980s.

“My brother had a passion for writing and creating,” his sister Elizabeth Rathjen said in a statement shared with IndieWire. “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. As far back as I can remember, my brother would make short movies on Super 8 with his friends. He spent hours cutting and splicing film together. He seemed to know how he wanted the film to look. Neal had an easy intelligence and a great wit. He enjoyed movies, books and music and wanted others to enjoy those things too.”