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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Casey Affleck

Casey Affleck is still here (offering tortured explanations)

September 22, 2010 |  3:00 am

Affle
By now it's hard to feel resentful about the Casey Affleck-Joaquin Phoenix hoax that is "I'm Still Here." It's just easier to shake your head at the whole misguided stunt.

On Tuesday, director Affleck came out on the stage of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to follow up on his comments last week that the entire Phoenix career switch was staged.

Leno, to his credit, asked if Affleck wanted people to think the film was real -- basically, he was asking if Affleck wanted it to cross from postmodern gag into outright deception. And Affleck essentially turned up his palms and acted as though he was surprised by the backlash.

This was a character piece, a "Being John Malkovich homage," from the start, he said. "I'm Still Here" is "not a documentary," he maintained. "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."

"It doesn't seem like it would cause that much confusion, but it did. And we didn't address it. We never said, like, this isn't really Joaquin." (Well, that just might be why it caused the confusion.)

Affleck went on to say that he did -- sort of -- want people to be a little confused. "We just wanted to make a movie that would help people suspend their disbelief. They could go to the theater, they could experience it and sort wonder whether it's real or not," he said.

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Casey Affleck now says Phoenix movie was really a hoax

September 16, 2010 |  4:44 pm

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He's an actor, a director--and now, it appears, a pretty good liar.

After insisting for some two years that his Joaquin Phoenix documentary "I'm Still Here" was not a hoax, Casey Affleck is now admitting that the whole thing--in which the "Gladiator" star said he was leaving Hollywood to try to become a rapper--was a put-on.

In a New York Times interview published Thursday, Affleck said almost everything in the movie was staged, including Phoenix's using drugs and prostitutes. “I never intended to trick anybody,” Affleck told the newspaper. “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.”

Yet as recently as the film's premiere at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, Affleck maintained that the documentary, which opened a week ago to unimpressive ticket sales, "is no hoax." He also declined in Venice to address questions about specific sequences in the film "because it will affect the way people view the film."

During the making of the movie, Phoenix said that his endeavor to become a hip-hop singer was not a piece of performance art but an actual career-switch.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times that Affleck was recording for the documentary, Phoenix said more than a year ago that he no longer found acting satisfying and was serious about abandoning the film business. "There are too many other elements that are a part of moviemaking that I just find unbearable," he said at the time.

In the New York Times interview Thursday, Affleck said that talk show host David Letterman was not in on the prank when a monosyllabic Phoenix appeared on the program in 2009. Phoenix is scheduled to appear on the program next Wednesday. "We wanted to create a space," Affleck told the New York Times. "You believe what’s happening is real."

A spokeswoman for Affleck said that he did not lie about the film, but did not comment further.

A week ago, Affleck said in an e-mail to a reporter that he didn't want people to discuss what happened in the film before its release.

"I worked on the movie for two years and for many reasons was diligent about keeping the content a secret," said Affleck, who acted in "Ocean's Eleven" and "Gone Baby Gone." "There were the personal lives of others to think about.  There was also the fact that curiosity would help me sell the movie and help the movie sell tickets.  And that's how I would earn back the money I spent and pay my bills."

-- John Horn

Photo of Casey Affleck by Robert Caplin / For The Times


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