Joaquin Phoenix documentary: Even buyers aren't sure if it's a prank
Even after seeing the documentary “I’m Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix” in a private screening earlier this week, film buyers still aren’t sure of its genuineness. Was the “Walk the Line” and “Gladiator” star, who said more than a year ago that he was quitting acting to become a musician, playing a sophisticated prank, or did he really ditch his Oscar-nominated career to become a disheveled rapper?
Agents at William Morris Endeavor, the sellers of the Casey Affleck-directed film, have started showing the movie to potential distributors, and while some were apparently interested in bidding for “I’m Still Here’s” distribution rights, the shoppers left the screening perhaps even more mystified by Phoenix’s behavior than when they walked in.
Several buyers said the film overflowed with Hollywood debauchery, including more male frontal nudity than you’d find in some gay porn films and a stomach-turning sequence in which someone feuding with Phoenix defecates on the actor while he’s asleep.
The documentary — or is it a mockumentary? — also includes Phoenix’s infamous appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” in which the bearded and bloated actor barely spoke, leaving Letterman bewildered if not infuriated and people wondering about Phoenix’s mental health.
The buyers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Phoenix comes off unsympathetically and shows very little talent for music in the movie, directed by his brother-in-law (Affleck is married to Summer Phoenix). Sales agent WME declined to comment.In some scenes in the film, the 35-year-old Phoenix is trying to get Sean “Diddy” Combs to produce Phoenix’s rap album, but the hip-hop impresario is not terribly interested. Another sequence shows Ben Stiller approaching Phoenix about starring in writer-director Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg,” but Phoenix is barely interested.
Two buyers who saw the movie were unsure if Phoenix had turned out an elaborate piece of performance art, where the joke was really on the audience. While they were debating the film’s commercial prospects, the buyers did agree on one thing: They’d never seen anything like it.
-- John Horn
Photo: Joaquin Phoenix. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times
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