Phoenix tries to explain it all
After confessing to America that his breakdown was a put-on, Joaquin Phoenix went on late-night television to explain why he did it.
Phoenix and “I’m Still Here” director Casey Affleck made separate late-night appearances this week to come clean about the elaborate prank that had the Oscar nominee leaving behind acting for hip-hop. That move resulted in Phoenix making a bizarre, zoned-out appearance on “Late Show With David Letterman” in February 2009 as well as in the recently released faux-documentary “I’m Still Here,” which chronicles the alleged breakdown.
“We wanted to do a film that explored celebrity and explored the relationships between the media and the consumers and the celebrities themselves,” a well-scrubbed and deferential Phoenix told Letterman on Wednesday night, his first visit to the show since the infamous YouTube-worthy appearance more than a year and a half ago.
Appearing on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Tuesday, Affleck said that the intent of “I’m Still Here” was to portray the arc of a fictional character. “It’s a movie about an actor who’s been doing this for his whole life, and he decides he wants to try something else.”
Even though Affleck and Phoenix let dangle the possibility that this was the actor’s real life, Affleck told Leno he was flummoxed by the public response that this might be real. “It doesn’t seem like it would cause that much confusion, but it did.” He added, “I wanted [the audience] to think it was real while they were watching it. But I assumed when it was over they would understand it wasn’t real.”
The movie had resulted in some eyebrow-raising among Hollywood insiders and the general public, first about Phoenix’s well-being and then, once Affleck admitted last week that it was all an act, about the wisdom of the stunt. The movie, meanwhile, has not galvanized the viewing public — it has grossed $259,000 in the first 10 days of its relatively limited release.
On Wednesday, Phoenix apologized to Letterman for behavior that had him playing a character on the host’s program in hopes he could get a “beatdown” and then include the segment in his film. Letterman, who maintained he did not know the appearance last year was a joke, replied that he didn’t take umbrage.
“I’m telling you, it was so much fun. It was batting practice,” the host said.
Ratings for the “Late Show” episode were up 14% over the program’s season average last year.
COHERENT: Joaquin Phoenix, left, was contrite, and David Letterman told him, “It was so much fun.”