Suraj Vara takes us through the outrageous shock tactics of Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix, star of the new independent film The Master, has recently found criticism and acclaim by stating that the Oscars are “Bullshit”. In the midst of awards season where many actors, directors and producers are looking to appeal to audiences for votes, Phoenix would rather disassociate himself from what he described as “The worst tasting carrot he’s ever tasted in his life.”
Is this his clever ploy to place himself in the centre of a voting frenzy after having missed out on two academy awards for past roles?
Beginning his acting career in Los Angeles at the age of 8, he followed the footsteps of his older brother, River, who had played in the adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Stand by Me (1986), crime drama Running on Empty (1988), and even had a cameo role as a young Indiana Jones in The last Crusade. Joaquin and River were both together on the night that River tragically died following a drug overdose in a Los Angeles club; he was 23.
In the maturity of his acting career, Joaquin demonstrated his dedication to the sincerity of his characters and personal beliefs while working on set. He embraced many bodily alterations for his roles such as losing or gaining weight and changing the colour of his complexion. Due to his strict vegan upbringing, Phoenix specifically requests that no animal products are used in his costumes and so in the 2000 film Gladiator, all leather was made out of synthetic materials to fulfil Phoenix’s request. He had also recorded an entire album and used his own vocals for his role as country music legend, Johnny Cash, in Walk the Line.
One of the biggest shocks of Phoenix’s career, however, was the announcement of his retirement in 2008, shortly after the release of Two Lovers. Phoenix had been on a promotional tour taking television interviews, the most notable of which was on the Late Show with David Letterman, which can still be seen on Youtube. Phoenix ambled out on stage, with a remarkable resemblance to Zach Galifianakis, and proceeded to proffer single word answers and stern looks in response to questions and playful banter. The interview appeared to be a comical play on stage, especially when Phoenix announced that his resignation from acting was to pursue a career in hip hop and rap music; the crowd burst into fits of laughter. Unfortunately, Phoenix was not amused and replied “What the fuck? What have you got the audience on, are you pumping nitrous gas in here or something?” Phoenix continued to be disinterested in his own career, claiming not to have seen the film he was there to promote, and sticking his chewing gum under Letterman’s desk.
Thankfully, Phoenix’s outrageous career move was a hoax to benefit a mock documentary he had been making with his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck. The Mockumentary, entitled I’m Still Here, was aimed to explore the relationship between celebrities, the media and spectators. Spending two years on filming, I’m Still Here features some incredible footage of Phoenix assaulting a heckler during a performance, as well as a large portion of his Letterman interview.
Joaquin, having returned to acting, is now touring to promote The Master, which was released in cinemas on the 2nd of November, and will be followed by the release of his next film, Nightingale, in 2013.