Joaquin Phoenix appears in a feature for the October issue of Interview magazine to promote The Master (which, by the way, is still in theaters), and we had some requests for coverage in yesterday’s Amy Adams story. You know that I’m happy to oblige when it comes to Joaquin, so here we go.
The interview was conducted by Elvis Mitchell, who is a big-time film critic that gets lots of perks like being interviewed during the Hunger Games special features and was also (interestingly enough) fired from Movieline last year after it was discovered that he reviewed Source Code based upon not watching the movie but upon an old script of the movie. Somehow (and I don’t know how this happened), his career has recovered, and he’s still making big bucks in some new film curating gig. That’s not really important, I guess, but it’s interesting that he was partnered up with Joaquin for this talk. Here are some excerpts:
No good actors, only good directors? “I’m very fortunate because I’ve worked with these amazing directors that I’m able to do that with and really find the truth with, because that’s what they’re after as well. But if the director’s not after it, then forget it. There aren’t f–king good actors. It’s all the director. It’s so funny when people say it’s good actors–and actors really believe it and sh-t. You’re completely hostage to the director. So the director is the most important person to me. I work for them. My job is to help them fulfill their vision. But I like being an employee. I like making somebody happy–and if they’re not, then I’m crushed.”
He’ll never be happy with his performances: “Here’s a guarantee: If I’m happy about something that I’ve done, then it’s going to be very bad. That’s a guarantee. Without fail, if I ever go onto a scene and say, ‘I’ve f–king got it,’ then it’s the worst thing in the world. [T]hat’s one of the things that I hate more than anything: nailing it. He nailed it. Well, that guy came in, he said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,’ and . . . boom! He f–king nailed it. And part of me is impressed with that–one of my favorite actors can f–king nail it–but it’s just something that I don’t want to do. I can appreciate that ability in other people, but I don’t want to be that actor. I don’t want to nail it. I want to go into the courtroom and feel like I might lose the case. I want it to be scary–and it still is. I’m almost 38. I’ve been acting for 30 years. But I still get nauseous the day before and have weeks of incredible anxiety. They have to put f–king pads in my armpits because I sweat so much that it just drips down my wardrobe. For the first three weeks of shooting, I’m just sweating. It’s pure anxiety, and I love it.”
On The Master script: “I was just confused. You know, you start a movie out and you read the script and you’re so nervous and you just want to please your director so badly. But the first time I sat down with Paul [Thomas Anderson] and Phil [Seymour Hoffman] and we went through a scene, I was convinced that they weren’t going to hire me. I was convinced it was over. I was like, ‘I can’t believe it.’ I got up at five o’clock in the morning and f–king studied through the processing scene on the boat because I knew we were going to rehearse that. I had to try and get it down. It literally felt like an audition. So we went in for the next rehearsal and I was like, ‘I’m basically auditioning today,’ because the day before I was pretty sure Phil was like, ‘This is not working,’ and Paul was going, ‘I know. I don’t know what to do.’ No joke because, dude, for real, here’s the thing: Phil is such a g-ddamn genius. So you’re sitting there with this f–king genius, and he starts talking, and I’m like, ‘I can’t follow this guy. I’m not saying anything after him!’ It was incredible to be around him. So I was like, ‘F–k, man. They ask me to do this movie, and we do rehearsal, and it’s so bad and Paul is probably doubting it . . .’ But, yeah, then we just went back and rehearsed again, and that day I think we talked a bit more and maybe he was like, ‘Okay, I’ll give him a shot.’”
PTA hired him because of I’m Still Here: “Maybe it was just like, ‘Oh, well, this guy’s obviously a moron. I’ll cast him.’ Sort of just, ‘This f–king monkey will do anything. I’ll just let that monkey sling sh-t at himself. That will be great.’ And that was essentially what I was. Near the end of the movie, he was just calling me Bubbles.”
When he claimed to be done with acting: “I thought Casey [Affleck] and I had actually achieved ultimate success with I’m Still Here, if your definition of success is completely destroying your career-which was somewhat the intent. But doing that movie was one of the best things that I’ve done and that I’ll ever do. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in terms of helping me grow as an actor and having a deeper appreciation for acting. But for a while, it was bad. I was so worried. Casey and I were getting into big fights about it-really intense-and I was like, ‘F–k, I’ve worked for years and this movie cost me money and I’m going to lose my house.’”
On awards season: “I think it’s bullsh-t. I think it’s total, utter bullsh-t, and I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t believe in it. It’s a carrot, but it’s the worst-tasting carrot I’ve ever tasted in my whole life. I don’t want this carrot. It’s totally subjective. Pitting people against each other . . . It’s the stupidest thing in the whole world. It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when Walk the Line was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again. I don’t know how to explain it–and it’s not like I’m in this place where I think I’m just above it–but I just don’t ever want to get comfortable with that part of things.”
He doesn’t want huge paychecks: There was this period after I’m Still Here when I was getting a lot of big-money offers because they were crap things. I think a lot of people were like, “He’s f–ked. He’s desperate.” These offers were, like, a lot of money–maybe not for other actors, but definitely for me. But I don’t want that power. I don’t want $20-million power.”
[From Interview Magazine]
Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about listening to Joaquin campaign for an Oscar this awards season, right? Harvey Weinstein will be so disappointed to hear this news, and it’s really too bad — it might have been more interesting than, say, George Clooney’s dull as snot campaigns. Then again, Joaquin has been through it twice before (he was nominated for Best Actor in Walk the Line and Best Supporting Actor for Gladiator), and he’s not interested in faking enthusiasm for a gaudy golden statuette. Of course, I love the Oscars because, you know, pretty dresses, but I can see why Joaquin wouldn’t be excited by that prospect either.
On a more refreshing note, hearing about Joaquin’s anxiety and distress over his performance in the processing scene of The Master is quite surprising because — in a lot of people’s minds (including my own) — that was the very best part of the movie. It sounds like the huge amount of work that went into the scene really paid off in the end.
Photos courtesy of Interview magazine and WENN