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Joaquin Phoenix documentary: Even buyers aren't sure if it's a prank

May 7, 2010 |  4:48 pm

1 It’s far from the Joaquin Phoenix you’re used to seeing onscreen: snorting cocaine, ordering call girls, having oral sex with a publicist, treating his assistants abusively and rapping badly. And not, apparently, playing a role — or was he?

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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Comments () | Archives (36)

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Commercial Prospects? Are you kidding me? this thing is going to get a one-week release in a handful of theaters if they are lucky and then go to DVD. Phoenix is a good actor but he is barely a "star"... no one really cares what he is doing. It might become a cult favorite if it is well done - but if there is full frontal nudity and stuff, then that just adds an ick factor to this mess. Wonder what big bro ben thinks of Casey's work?

Either way, pity the schmucks who sit through it for free, never mind paying for the pleasure.

There's a price to pay for abusing drugs.

there is something very much like it, its a film directed by Daniel Wu called 'The Heavenly Kings' made in Hong Kong in 2006. Four well known actors pretended to be a pop band in real life for 9 months while filming their public appearances and performances. Only when the film held a surprise debut at the 2006 Hong Kong Film Festival did anyone know it was all a ruse for a movie.

Borrrrriiing. Whats up with this guy ? He has $100 mil. in the bank and hes acting like Howard Hughes. When is he gonna fly the Spruce Goose ?

Now that I know almost 100% that this was just a prank, I think what Phoenix did was pretty cool. Well, not cool, but he stayed in character for a year and possibly ruined his career.

Yeah I remember Andy Kaufman. I remember wanting my money back after one of his shows.

Gee if WM lets it in the office, someone's figured it out. I cant wait to see this kick in the !@#$. It'll make Borat look like cucumber puree. Fresh, but easily forgettable! BAM!

What a waste of talent, he spent a year filming himself snorting drugs, having sex and making bad music, whoever pays to see this piece of garbage is as sick as joaquin and casey.

He wishes he was Andy Kauffman. And the real victim here is James Gray whose wonderful movie probably tanked because of Pheonix's antics. In the end, it doesn't really matter if he "fooled" us or not. Nobody cares. He is the one who wasted a year of his life.

Whatever it was, prank or not, I don't think it was so great for his career, if he has one left. Does anyone really care about what he did? It wasn't anything so interesting.
I really used to like to see him in films. He is/was a really good actor, but like most actors it's best they keep a low profile on their personal life. I don't think I would go to see him now. TMI.

Who Cares about Joaquin Phoenix

This all makes me think of one thing: "I'm Not There". Between the title (I'm Still Here), the description, and watching the David Letterman interview, all I can think of is that it must be some play on that.

Sondheim should sue.

Who Cares????

Mr. Phoenix is clearly mentally ill. He puts me in mind of all the eventual stories about Howard Hughes' "lost years" when people were afraid to tell him or no one actually could take control of things and get him help due to his enormous wealth and power.
Hopefully Mr. Phoenix has a relative or next of kin who will come to their senses and have him committed to a modern mental health facility for diagnosis and treatment.
In the mean time my prayers and well wishes are out there...

Holy smokes...are you kidding me? I've always like Joaquin Phoenix, even back when he was called Leif...if he's in a movie that actually shows someone taking a dump on him and it's made by Casey Affleck (LOVE him too!) then by jeezums I am gonna watch it!!!

The wrong Pheonix died!

I think he wanted to be honest about who he was. He's not who you think he is. I think he wanted to communicate that, or perhaps he wanted to go back to a 'nobody' fame level. Disgust as many as people as possible, they'll hate you, and then you can live your life without others bothering you. OR he just wanted to be free to do what he wants. Really free. But yes, I totally believed he was pursuing music. I still do.

I will add... I had a prophetic dream about this months before he announced his retirement. In my dream, there was a circle of people that came to learn something from Joaquin. They were there to have a music lesson. They were very excited to be there. However, when he came out, he looked like hell. He was disheveled. His clothes were too big. His face was very very dark like he hated himself with a passion. The anger emanated from him. His face was distorted. His nose was pushed up into his face like a pig, but it was destroyed. He couldn't walk. His bones were stiff and distorted. He was in pain. I immediately awoke and sat up in bed. A deep voice said to me, "He will become a shadow of himself." I asked, "What?" It then said, "It's called judgment." I wasn't sure what that meant. I asked, "Judgment? Who? Me on him? Him on himself? God?" I felt compelled to write him. There is so much more to this that I cannot write about here. A lot of coincidences/synchronocity happened to me, as if to make it obvious I had to send it out, but I didn't do anything about it. I chickened out. And now I regret it VERY MUCH. Like there'd been a way to get it to him anyway. Last thing I wanted was to embarrass myself (And unfortunately I am doing it now). I almost tried, but then I got spooked. I wrote a riddle for him and sent it to LIV - the place he performed at in Miami. PART of it said: "Spring is near, but not quite Summer. Either's good 'cause Winter's a bummer. Fall is my favorite, though maybe not so much for you. Good God, man. You jumped into a zoo..." Then there was a couple other lines. If you remember, he took a dive off stage. I always wondered if that's why. That was the first instance that made me wonder if it was just acting. I don't know what to think now I am reading about the movie. It seems to fit the feeling in the dream. It's not over yet, I don't think. If you could fathom what I saw in my dream. All the people there were incredibly disgusted, shocked, heartbroken, and very disappointed that he fell to such depths of darkness and self-destruction. The damage was done & there was nothing anyone could do about it. I regret not sending that stuff. I wonder if I could've stopped it. I feel like such a jackass for saying this. But if you're one of those who's new agey or spiritual, you might understand my dilemma. I think was supposed to send this stuff. I didn't. That happened. I don't know what to do. I can't just drop it, ignore it and pretend it didn't happen (I mean I can, but it wouldn't sit right with my conscience). The thing is, it might not be over. That scares me & I had hoped this doc would put my mind at ease. It doesn't. And for those who are going to comment, I already know. In a dream 2 weeks ago, he sat next to me at cafeteria table while I had a folder opened in front of me. He was shaggy again. He tucked in a slip of paper and walked away. He was indifferent. I took the slip out. On it was scrawled, "You open for press." It didn't make sense then. It does now. So here it is. And save it. I know what dreams are and I know the difference between them and ones that mean something. Believe or don't believe. I still can't figure it out & I wish this whole thing would be concluded already. So those of you who say does anyone care? Yes. I do. I want to know what it means.

Well, when it's time to finally crack, look this guy up because he seems to "be in the know". It's real. Real hairy. It's ok.

This is about as lame and fake as you can get

People who say who cares about Joaquin Phoenix make me laugh. First of all in order to leave a comment on this sight you would have first cared enough to find this sight. In an interview Casey Affleck said he did not know what would unfold when he started, he just knew that this would be something worth capturing on film because of Joaquin's huge career move. Which only leaves us guessing if Casey is pulling our leg as well. This is the genius in unscripted art. The only difference between this and real life is the ability to edit.

He may not be a *star,* but I love his work. 'Gladiator,' 'Signs,' 'Walk the Line,' - he's a fave. With so much jibber-jabber being released by studios, this is the most exciting film project I've heard of in a long while (outside anything Tilda Swinton works on).

Maybe its prank or not but it looks like more of a method for publicity and it has helped the sales of this documentary quite high and successful.

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