I recorded Letterman tonight, not that I’m a big fan, because frankly, I’m not. But I wanted to see what Joaquin Phoenix had to say – and even if he’d show up. Oh – and if he did show, would he be arriving with his sanity this time? I deliberately stayed away from any source that would give it away until I could actually see Phoenix walk onto Letterman’s stage. Honestly, and this aggravates me as much as anything else, but I was really hoping he’d be his usual good-looking self, complete with a more kinder mindset and minus any semblance of a drunk or drug-induced ungrateful Hollywood celebrity. It aggravates me because it mattered one way or the other. But first things first. Before Letterman brought him out, he had his not-unexpected ramble about how he was as fooled as the rest of the world and that the whole Joaquin Phoenix experience from over a year ago was just as baffling to him as it was to anyone else. Fine…c’mon…bring him out already. This is giving me a headache.
Enter a normal, soft spoken and almost humble Phoenix – who has a face. And eyes. He quickly goes into his explanation of how reality TV is anything but and that he and Casey Affleck took an idea and run with it to see what would really happen. He says that they entered into this “creative effort” with some idea of what the consequences might be, but not entirely clear of the enormity of this social experiment now titled “I’m Still Here”. What’s so interesting is that Phoenix knew, at least to some degree, that this wasn’t going to set right with many folks. He said, when Letterman reminded him that he’d removed his sunglasses during their last interview to thank him, “Casey was very angry with me when I did that”. He
then goes on to say that there were things they did in public that they assumed people would know wasn’t real. Really? Does anyone in Hollywood think the rest of the world makes those assumptions? We’re talking about a group of talented artists (OK – so I use that term loosely) who call Hollywood home and who have, in the recent past:
- Wore a dress of raw meat to the MTV Awards earlier this month (Is PETA banging down your door, Lady Gaga?)
- Opted to have 10 surgeries in one day to “fix” a body – on a woman who’s not even 25 yet (Heidi –girl, please – go back home to your mom – she’s not finished raising you).
- Been arrested every time an airport or moving vehicle is involved (thank you Paris and Lindsay…those stories never get old).
When Letterman asked him if he was concerned about the permanent damage done to his career, in a classic “humble Joaquin” moment, he said, “I certainly knew there was that risk, uhm, I’m not sure I have much of a career…now”. He also says it was worth the risk. Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell.
I have to say this aggravates the hell out of me. It feels icky somehow, as though the ends justified the means. They didn’t. I won’t be seeing “I’m Still Here” for the same reason I never saw “Star Wars” or any of the “Harry Potter” movies – they’re fantasy. I want to see stories that could be true or are true. Oh, and remember, it was billed, at least initially, as a documentary.
Here’s the deal – for many fans of this talented actor (and he truly is), it’s that vulnerable side of him that makes him so bankable and likeable. We don’t need for you to fake the less than pleasant side of human nature so much; we know it’s there. No need to aggressively demonstrate it to us after using the money-paying public as your social experiment.
This creative effort will definitely sink or swim both Phoenix and Affleck. Despite the frustration many are feeling, I have to say, I’m glad to see Phoenix back to the more realistic side of the human race. Now, if those who influence his style decisions can ensure he never, ever grows facial hair again, we can finally call this a done deal!