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Joaquin breaks character on Letterman, Affleck comes clean

By / 09.23.10

The big news today is that Joaquin Phoenix went on Letterman last night, this time not in character.  You can hear all about it from boyish wonder Matt Ufford over on WarmingGlow, but probably the best exchange was Dave demanding money for his appearance in I’m Still Here, now that they’ve publicly admitted it wasn’t a strict “documentary.”

Joaquin: “Can we talk about it privately?”

Dave: “Yeah, I’ll go to one of your screenings.”

ZING!  Seriously though, well played, Letterman.  Meanwhile, over on his blog, Roger Ebert published an email exchange with Casey Affleck about the documentary concept which is worth a read, if you’re into that sort of thing.  My sister was a reader.

The bottom line: Casey Affleck thinks of it as a performance and not as an act, and he thinks of “I’m Still Here” as a film, and not a hoax. In an interview where he revealed details behind the making of his controversial film with and about Joaquin Phoenix, he also said:

- David Letterman was not in on the performance, and what you saw on his show was really happening.

- Phoenix dropped out of character when he was not being filmed or in public.

- The drugs and the hookers were staged. The vomiting was real. [phew!]

I can’t find in the interview where Casey Affleck says “performance not an act”, so it’s hard to say whether those are his words or Eberts.  Ooh, a performance not an act, you say!  Well la di dah, your highness.  I’ve never been Cleveland Steamer’d either, I’ve only had hookers poop on my chest.

Affleck: I wish people hadn’t debated so much the films veracity or authenticity, hadn’t asked only and dully, “Is this real?” But that response is better than apathy, I suppose. Picasso said, “Art is the lie that tells the truth.”

I agree with being annoyed that people only ask whether it was real (because it clearly wasn’t), but they also sort of created that question by constantly denying that it was an act.  Also, ironically, I think I’d enjoy your fart joke movie more if you didn’t spend so much time in interviews smelling your own farts.

Ebert:   James Gray, the director of “Two Lovers,” was enraged at Joaquin‘s behavior. I thought “Two Lovers” was a good film and I was in sympathy with Gray. How did you and Joaquin process that whole area?

Affleck: James just wanted people to see his movie. Magnolia released that as well as my movie and I don’t think a whole lot of people would have seen it if Joaquin didn’t have a beard and hadn’t told people he was retiring. But maybe I’m wrong. James also was told what was going on.

I’m with Ben’s kid brothah Casey on this one.  I highly doubt Joaquin’s antics had anything to do with Two Lovers bombing.  You cast Gwyneth Paltrow in a non-traditional (so I’ve heard),  indie-ish rom-com, and then tried to market it as a traditional rom-com… it didn’t work.  Try blaming Gwyneth and her crappy taco recipes and $75 cake knives.

Ebert:   My review of the film expressed concern that Joaquin might be self-destructing. Not many reviews expressed much concern. Even those who thought the film was or might be true didn’t seem to care much about the human being. Has the celeb culture vulgarized us so much that stars are now regarded simply as objects?

Affleck: It seems so. Your review was unique. I appreciated it.

Hmm, probably because the self-destructing was clearly an act.  And even if it wasn’t, wouldn’t it still be a conscious choice?  What if he was on drugs?  You can call drug addicts “sick” if it suits you, but no one’s forcing the drugs in your mouth.  Look, I’m intrigued by the movie.  I want to see Joaquin go rape crazy while buying a cape and all the other stuff, and I don’t care that he’s acting. It still takes improv talent and a lot of balls.  But can we stop pretending that this is high art?  If you intentionally deceive people, you can’t use that as a platform to whine about people being easily deceived.  That’s like me taking a dump on the street to prove that our streets are in the midst of a dump-taking epidemic.  Hey, have you noticed all my analogies involve taking dumps?  I should probably work on that.

RELATED ASYLUM POLL: Has Joaquin Phoenix permanently damaged his brain?


TAGSCASEY AFFLECKdavid lettermanI'M STILL HEREJAMES GREYjoaquin phoenixroger ebert

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