Joaquin Phoenix has never been a typical actor. He’s an eccentric, and that eccentricity results in one rich, fascinating, unique performance after another — including that time he pretended to rebrand as a rapper, as a bit (and for a film). That does mean he has an unusual, potentially reckless way of prepping. Indeed, in the lead-up to shooting the forthcoming Napoleon, he shocked director Ridley Scott by being a little unprepared a little close to the first day of filming.
“He’ll come in, and you’re f*cking two weeks’ out, and he’ll say, ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Scott told Empire (as caught by Variety). “I’ll say, ‘What?!’ ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Oh God. I said, ‘Come in, sit down.’ We sat for 10 days, all day, talking scene by scene. In a sense, we rehearsed. Absolutely detail by detail.”
Was it worth it? Sounds like it. Scott dubbed him “the best player of damaged goods,” both for playing France’s most notorious emperor and for Gladiator, the last time they worked together. For that film, Phoenix earned his first Oscar nomination, playing the hissable, incestuous, daddy-killing, massive tongue-licking baddie who upends the life of Russell Crowe’s ripped general-turned-slave-turned-fighter Maximus.
In the same Empire piece, Phoenix gushed about reuniting with the ever-prolific Scott.
“The truth is, there was just a very nostalgic idea of working with Ridley again,” Phoenix explained. “I had such an incredible experience working with Ridley on Gladiator, and I was so young. It was my first big production. I really yearned for that experience again, or something similar. He’s approached me about other things in the past, but nothing that felt like it would be as demanding for both of us. And so I really liked the idea of jumping into something with Ridley that was going to be that.”
Alas, Phoenix, like Crowe, won’t be in Scott’s Gladiator 2, but at least there’s a good reason for that.