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Casey Affleck now says Phoenix movie was really a hoax

September 16, 2010 |  4:44 pm

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

Comments () | Archives (3)

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REally authenticity is good! I hate fakes!

It was quite obvious. The David Letteman stunt gave it away.

In the spirit of Hollywood films, Academy Award nominated actor Joaquin Pheonix and director Casey Affleck's new film, "I'm Still Here," offers its audience a unique look at how life ought to be, literally. "I'm Still Here," a film about an actor, Pheonix, who is tired of acting and has become a rapper, suspends its audience's disbelief, because the film's plot is actually fictional, not real; in other words, Joaquin is still "walking the line," so to speak. Pheonix and Affleck have broken into a new hot market for films, "performance art cinema," where, "a performance... is presented to an audience but... does not seek to present a conventional theatrical play or a formal linear narrative, or which alternately does not seek to depict a set of fictitious characters in formal scripted interactions." "I'm Still Here," should be just as entertaining as most movies, if not more, whereby a movie that was meant to seem actual, is in fact, as staged as Shakespearean theater.

Brendan Ryan

The Brendan Ryan Company
Houston, Texas


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