Joaquin Phoenix: ‘I don’t know my craft! I feel like every f—ing movie is my first’

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix covers the December issue of Esquire UK to promote Her, which is his new movie with Rooney Mara. I love Joaquin, but the first thing I thought when catching a glimpse of this cover was, “He looks … unwell.” That’s only the cover too. The editorial is somehow even worse, which is weird because Joaquin has developed a habit of appearing unkempt, but that’s not the case in this shoot. He looks clean cut but stressed out and beaten down. Could it be because so many outlets recently reminded us all of the 20th anniversary of River Phoenix’s passing? I don’t know. I hope Joaquin’s okay.

This interview is a bit of a mess too. Joaquin quite nearly goes full Chris Evans with the neuroses firing full blast. Joaquin is no spring chicken either. He’s been acting for three decades, yet he reveals that he completely freaks out while filming every movie. He does not paint a pretty picture at all. Is it real, or is it an act?

He’s terrified of acting: “I don’t know my craft! Every f—ing movie, I feel like it’s my first. I’m uncontrollably shaking, physically nervous [on every set]. No way am I like, ‘Yeah, I got this’. Every time feels f—ing terrifying. They have to put f—ing pads in my armpits because I sweat so much that it drips down my wardrobe.”

Ohhh the angst: “These guys I’ve been working with, Spike and Paul [Directors Spike Jonze and Paul Thomas] I was thinking the other day: what happened? I don’t deserve to be here!”

He aims to please: “I like being an employee. My job is to please the director, that’s it. Because seriously, if you see cuts and dailies, it’s hard for any actor to take credit. Any performance in a movie is the complete work, and it’s the director that sews it all together. It matters so much to me to impress the director. I get crippled by my own thought process. I just want to make this person happy.”

He thinks he’s an idiot: “My taste is like a sophisticated four-year-old. I wish I could say I watch European movies and sh-t, but I don’t. I watch [2008’s] Step Brothers more than any other f—ing movie.”

No pretention, please: “Here’s what I worry about. When people are constantly adjusting your collar and your lapel and you just give in to it? It’s over. You’re no longer a human being. When you see an adult actor on set, they look infantilised. People are there to dress you. They bring you espressos and lattes and sh-t. It’s like arrested development. We’re all just little f—ing runt kids.”

The offers aren’t flowing after his Andy Kaufman routine: “I’m choosing one out of two movies, dude. It’s a pretty limited choice.”

Making I’m Still Here with Casey Affleck: “That experience was so exciting and rewarding, it was really hard after that to imagine ever making a conventional movie again.”

[From Esquire UK]

I think he’s being real here, don’t you? Joaquin was who I thought of yesterday when Julia Roberts was rambling about how every actor wants an Oscar. Well Joaquin doesn’t want one. Remember how he spouted, “I think it’s total, utter bullsh-t” last year? Then he got called out and admitted, “I guess I sound like a d-ck.” At the time, Joaquin also said an Oscar is “the antithesis of what you want to be as an actor. You’re always trying to free yourself of the artifice, which is really difficult. Especially when you suck, like me.” He really thinks he’s an awful actor. Amazing.

Photos courtesy of Esquire UK

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82 Responses to “Joaquin Phoenix: ‘I don’t know my craft! I feel like every f—ing movie is my first’”

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  1. Eve says:

    LOVE HIM. Love him to bits.

    But I think he’s fishing for compliments with that quote (that he sucks). I mean, I totally buy that he doesn’t care about winning awards or anything but that he thinks he sucks at what he does? Please…

    • NYC_girl says:

      I really loved him in “Signs” for some reason. That movie had issues, but I still love “Swing away!”

      • nico says:

        Signs is a fun movie.

        The Village is pretty entertaining, too.

      • Eve says:

        @ NYC_girl:

        I’ve loved him in everything. His performances have yet to disappoint me.

      • Bridge13 says:

        Signs is not a great movie, but it’s one that I’ve watched over and over again. I think Joaquin was very appealing in it. He brings a lot of vulnerability to his roles.

      • Liv says:

        Haha, funny that you mention Signs!

        I think he was brilliant in Walk The Line. And sooo hot! I see something of that in the pictures. I mean like someone mentioned before, he really is fighting his hotness. What a waste of time!

        @Eve Have you seen this weird film with Nicholas Cage about snuff films? So weird!

      • Eve says:

        Yes, it’s “8MM”. He’s fantastic in it (but that goes without saying). The man is a brilliant actor.

    • T.fanty says:

      I agree. At the end of the day, he still plays the game. You can’t be anti-establishment and then choose to make Hollywood movies. Or do fashion shoots for men’s’ magazines.

    • Kathy says:

      He is ALWAYS like that, back in the days when he was shooting Gladiator, he freaked out once in a while cause he though he didn’t act well, he could never match his co star’s talent(Russell Crowe, Richard Harris, etc), even to the point where Harris had to literally reassure him that he was really really a great actor. Sounds ridiculous, right? And according to Spike Jonze, he was “mesmerized by Chris Cooper’s acting” and he began to doubt his acting ability again and kept saying no no no there’s no way he could act that good. BTW Chris Cooper actually got cut out of the final film, unfortunately

    • Han says:

      He is not fishing for compliments as much as describing how a lot of actors feel. He says what most actors i have ever met says,( mind you these are not big stars so its refreshing that someone in phoenix position will admit to the insecurity). That every time they turn up for a new job they think they haven’t got a clue what they are doing and are afraid they will be “found out”. This is what makes him such a great actor. He is not complacent. A lot of actors in his position believe their own hype and simply rest on their laurels.

      • Eve says:

        Han, Joaquin Phoenix is my favourite actor of all time. I wasn’t saying he was lying, I just can’t believe he thinks he sucks — maybe he’s insecure like 99,9% of actors (or hyper-critical of himself like Kitten said below), but he must know he’s good.

      • Han says:

        He is one of my faves too. From what i have seen good actors rely on a certain type of sensitivity, a thin skin as much as an ego. A lot of the best actors are really shy or uncomfortable in their own skin, if you read about the young Dustin Hoffman he was painfully shy, same goes for Robert DeNiro.
        As for his anti hollywood comments. Remember this guy grew up in some kind of hippy 70s way with his family´s counter culture belief. He also saw what happened to his older brother in hollywood. I think his stance on hollywood is coloured by his upbringing and early formative experiences. This isn’t an upper class guy who has grown up and is comfortable with the elite because they were brought up within it, such as Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch. Joaquin has always seemed to feel awkward about certain sides of the business.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      I think it might be a little bit of false modesty, but mostly I think he’s just hyper-critical of himself.

      I really love him, but these photos are truly awful.

      • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

        I get him–I don’t think he was fishing for a compliment. I like to write, I consider myself to be okay at it, AT BEST. This is because I read a ton of fanfiction every day, and I see all of these absolutely amazing writers who can write 5–10 thousand word chapters, when I can barely get over 1,500 words–and it’s all amazing. I want to be a good writer, some people say that I’m a good writer, but I wish that I could be as good as those other people. Just like I know that they have insecurities too. I was reading this Hannibal/Will story (off of the Hannibal tv show w/my man Mads Mikkelsen), and she wrote amazing, detailed chapters. I mean that story was pure gold. And at the end of almost every chapter, she’d leave a note asking us ‘why are we still reading her story?’. I didn’t take that as a sign of false modesty–I think that she was glad that the story was good, that people were interested, but she didn’t expect it to be received the way it was–like Joaquin. Let’s just say–I normally don’t like films about war in the early centuries, but I watched Gladiator only because of the “Am I not merciful” scene (my brother was watching it).

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        I completely understand. I always thought I was a pretty good artist until I got to art school and was surrounded by talent unlike anything I had ever seen. Gives you new perspective and hopefully, inspires you to be better.

        I feel like his comments and yours demonstrate humility and self-awareness.

        I don’t know…I much prefer when people are a bit self-critical versus incredibly arrogant.

    • I Choose Me says:

      I do believe that he thinks he sucks sometimes. He strikes me as the type who’s very hard on himself. Actors have fragile egos that constantly need propping up and knowing Hollywood like he does (enough to want to avoid its trappings) and how much smoke gets blown up your ass, he may have learned to distrust the praise that’s slung his way or at least assume it’s an exaggeration.

      Me, I have never not been mesmerized by this man. From the very first movie I’ve ever seen him in which was To Die For, I have been in love with his ability to give such raw and transforming performances on screen.

  2. PinkyTuscadero says:

    wassup wit dose shoes, wakeen? they are little.

  3. Lindy79 says:

    In the second picture, all I can see in his face is that puppet thing from Saw.
    I honestly have no idea why though.

  4. Dani2 says:

    Everytime I see him, I think of him at this year’s Oscars –

    He was such a mess, I loved it.

    • Kathy says:

      grumpy Joaquin made my day LOL
      maybe, just maybe, he might be nominated for Her in the GG comedy/musical category next year, and he would show up with his “I’m suffering HELL from this bad carrot and I don’t even bother to hide”face once again. YEEEEES can’t wait
      I feel like such a bad person:-P

  5. nico says:

    Joaquin may well believe he is a horrible actor. People have compared him negatively to his brother for years. That has to play with someone’s self-esteem.

    Fantastic actor.

    There have been stories on the internet about people meeting him at NYFF and RFF, and all of them say he is a really nice guy. They also say he’s better-looking in person.

  6. marie says:

    UGHHH Marry me, NOW!

  7. Dorothy#1 says:

    I think he looks great! I love him, but I still hold out a tiny hope he will someday get back together with Liv Tyler. 🙂

  8. Gia says:

    When I read the headline, I gave a major eye roll, but reading the full quotes, I believe him. I think he truly feels like an idiot and the infantilized thing is soooo bang on. That’s what makes him such a good actor though. He thinks his shit still stinks. And Step Brothers is a great film!! Nothing to be ashamed of there 🙂

  9. GiGi says:

    I actually think he looks good here… I just think he has a haggard face. Which I like. A lot.

    He talks about it publicly, but I think many people go through life feeling like a fraud – even if they’re quite good at what they do. Some people just constantly feel like they’re not enough and that if everyone found out they’d be sunk. Pretty common, most people just don’t talk about it.

    And I like what he says about actors being treated like children. It’s completely true and it always reminds me of the monarchy in a way… you know how Prince Charles doesn’t dress himself or put toothpaste on his own toothbrush? I think it would be easy to sink into that kind of luxury and cosseting and it takes a presence of mind to be aware that those things are not normal.

    • TG says:

      @Gigi – you ate bang on about people feeling like they are a fraud. I am one of them. All I can think of is that nasty Lena Dunham being fed a burrito too.

  10. Nicole says:

    Super likeable

  11. Elodie says:

    Now Jaoquin… like I said before and I will say it again, you can fight the hotness, the odds, be self-deprecating in your acting skills etc.n it’s the same : I’ll Never Let Go…

  12. Dhavynia says:

    I think he’s being real honest about the whole business. I like the fact that he gives the proper crefit to the director and it’s refreshing to read that he’s not thinking about directing like every other actor.
    Maybe he’s one of the very few who is actually in it still for the love of performing even if it gives him a panick attack. Besides, can anyone just imagine how people really change after doing a movie and everyone is your beck and call? We all know the egos of some of these actots after one movie

  13. Kit2 says:

    Joaquin seems naturally quite intense and high-strung, plus he’s been a strict vegan for many many years and a heavy smoker too… all those things in combination could easily drain one’s reserves and make one even more of a neurotic mess over time. I don’t think any of it is an act at all.

    Anyway, love him.

    • Sara says:

      These Hollywood vegans look so haggard after awhile. I really don’t think it is a healthy diet if you are relying on a lot of grains. Grains even whole grains are actually really not good for us. It’s hard to get a lot of bio available protein when you are a vegan.

      • Kit2 says:

        I totally agree Sara.

      • HealthReader says:

        You know not of what you speak. Some vegans choose to make grains no more than 10% of their diet and proteins (to fulfill the RDA requirement of less than 2 ounces daily) can be found in plants.

        A lot of celeb vegans tend to eat processed, high-sugar variations of the lifestyle because they don’t know what they’re doing basically.

        And yeah, generally chain smokers tend to look haggard. Especially at Joaquin’s age.

  14. Kaye says:

    He reminds me of Daniel Day Lewis in the first picture.

  15. _cowie says:

    He was amazing in Quills – don’t get the self-doubt at all!

  16. GlimmerBunny says:

    I found him SO sexy in “Walk the Line” but never in anything else 🙁 But nevertheless he truly is an amazing actor.

    • Frida_K says:

      Yes, *Walk the Line* was phenomenal.


    • Nicolette says:

      He was amazing in that role, and I never understood why Reese won (though she was great) and not him, he blew her performance away. He wasn’t even nominated if I remember right.

      • Eve says:

        He was nominated for Best Actor for “Walk The Line” (that’d be the second time he was nominated, the first being Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Gladiator”).

        But he, as usual, didn’t campaign.

        P.S.: The third time (Best Actor again) for “The Master”. Some are saying he could be nominated a fourth time, for his performance in Spike Jonze’s “Her”.

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        Man, he was so brilliant in The Master. What a talented and special actor he is.

      • Eve says:

        @ OKitten:

        Scary, too. Freddy Quell scared the hell out of me.

  17. magpie says:

    I think he is the best actor of his generation. He is way more able to tap into emotion and vulnerability than Leo D. He seems to be happier these days. Hope that’s true.

    • mom2two says:

      I agreed. Anything I’ve seen him in, he’s been great. I really do believe he has those neuroses. There is just something I’ve always found likable about him.

  18. j.eyre says:

    He scares me a little. He’s a great actor, I think but I feel like he is the guy that will go off on one of your dinner guest because they misquoted his favorite book or something.

    • Isabelle says:

      I can be that person if a book fav of my insulted lol. It only happens with books though because they’re my great passion.

  19. Bella Bella says:

    I always see Joaquin as someone who has had so much hurt and loss in his life and then has a job where he constantly has to be consumed with pain and heartbreak whether it is his own or a characters. It has to be difficult mentally. I know we always complain about rich actors moaning about their hard lives but those are usually the actors that are phoning it in on some big blockbuster awful movie. Joaquin always makes choices where he has to explore a character who has experienced exquisite loss. I wonder if he makes those choices as a coping mechanism for having so much pain in his own life?
    I think Walk the Line really led to the Joaquin of today.

    • Theresa says:

      Astute, very astute. I feel that he has always been fragile and vulnerable, if River was still here, Joaquin would probably still be the same person, doubting and insecure. His performance, in To Die For, with Kidman is pretty incredible. And he has played a very similar version of that character in almost all of his performances, so I wonder that what we see on screen is how he is in real life. I like his answers to these standard questions, seems all actors are expected to expound on the “craft”, I find his humility not affected, more like he has this desire to dispel the myths about everything. I bet he has a hard time hanging out with the standard Hollywood crowd, with the palm-pressing, preening, stroking and such. There are always a few actors of any generation, that exist outside the standard mold. I believe he will be one of those wonderful actors, that will be around for many years, because you will always get an amazing performance from him.

    • Kathy says:

      maybe he is, after being haunted and butchered by the media after River’s death then away from Hollywood for a couple of years, he chose a satire about an ambitious network weather woman going extreme for fame as his comeback movie, that might be a coincidence, but still……who knows

      • Eve says:

        I read somewhere he chose “To Die For” as his comeback movie because Gus Van Sant asked him to do it (and only because Van Sant had been good friends with his brother, River).

  20. NovemberScorpio says:

    Ugh, those sexy scorpio eyes. . . I still love him in The Gladiator. He was so damn hot in that movie!

  21. Quinn Parker says:

    Well, Joaquin certainly comes from a non-conformist clan- so he gets his quirkiness honestly. I actually believe what he says. He doesn’t seem to feel the need to sugar-coat anything. Phenomenal actor- truly. Whole lot of talent in that family.

    • Han says:

      I just said the same. His upbringing is clearly colouring how he sees the world. I believe him too in the way i believe Daniel Day Lewis is first and foremost interested in the work.

  22. Nancy says:

    I’ll always love Joaquin Phoenix I think he’s an amazing actor.

  23. Kathy says:

    Judging from his recent press conference appearances and other things, he seemed in quite a cheery mood lately, doing a romantic (perhaps a little sad in the end) movie certainly helped, huh

  24. Karen81 says:

    He should have won an Oscar for “Walk The Line”. He became Johnny Cash and sang his music so well, I like his versions of his songs more then the original.

    And because of my hubby, I am a huge Cash fan!

  25. fingerbinger says:

    I guess I’m in the minority because he’s never did anything for me in regards to his looks or acting. There are a few movies I l’ve liked him in , Walk the Line’ and ‘Gladiator’. I’ve just never been blown away by anything he’s been in. He put me off him even more with that “I’m Still Here’ act.

    • Lisa says:

      My interest dropped off about that time. I had been so in love with him after Buffalo Soldiers and Walk The Line, but then he started that stupid shit… Even though it was all for show, I haven’t managed to become interested in him again.

  26. Lisa says:

    Did he suddenly age?

    I like him,. Gladiator is not my favourite movie of his, but my friend and I wore out Quills. I think he really is insecure, not fishing for compliments.

  27. Side-Eye says:

    I like Joaquin Phoenix a lot. I really need to see more of his movies though—I heard the Master was really good, and he actually had me interested in Johnny Cash after Walk The Line.

  28. nicegirl says:

    GREAT actor.

  29. Bubulle says:

    Damn Joaquin has aged so much, still love him though. Matt Damon and him are my forever dongs.

  30. Axis2ClusterB says:

    I really love him and I think he’s being genuine. I think he really is just that insecure. When I consider where he came from, and the shadow left by River, I’m really amazed that he isn’t ‘crazier,’ as it were.

    • magpie says:

      Yeah, Lainey hasposted a lot of articles about his family lately. I think they are probably full of love and well meaning but…crayzzzy. There is the story about how they prepared for River to lose his virginity with a neighbor girl. They decoracted a tent for them and all. Just weird.

      • Moi says:

        It’s actually a bit worse than that. Pretty complicated to say the least. Read the book I mentioned below. You can’t always believe everything that you read, but if what is in that book is even remotely true…well I would rather not even repeat some of the things that took place in their childhood per “LNATVR”. But they (the fam) all love each other a bunch, no doubt.

  31. Snowpea says:

    Ilovelove love love love love love love love love love love love love love love lovelove love love love love love love love love love love love love love love lovelove love love love love love love love love love love love love love love lovelove love love love love love love love love love love love love love love lovelove love love love love love love love love love love love love love love lovelove love love love love love love love love love love love love love love lovelove love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love Joaquin Phoenix. That is all.

  32. A Fan says:

    He’s an interesting guy…looks banged up, inside and out…obviously thinks a lot…has depth.

    [antithesis of Justin Timberlake]

  33. Dandhara Esperanza says:

    He has life an ugly beautiful face. It’s weird. I love him lots but he has to tone down the crazy.

  34. Isabelle says:

    Joaquin is the best actor in Hollywood IMO. River always said Joaquin was a better actor than him. The Master was an OK movie but Joaquin was jaw dropping amazing in it. Almost like he was possessed with another person. He’s highly unappreciated and wish Hollywood would lower their snobby noses to him.

  35. Miss M says:

    I can’t have a crush on him because thinking as my young self, I would be having a crush on my brother-in – law, lol. I had such a crush on River Phoenix growing up.

  36. Missykittens says:

    I’ve never seen him act, so I don’t know what to say about that. But it is very refreshing to hear that he gets nervous on every movie.

  37. Anoni Mus says:

    Joaquin Phoenix mesmerizes me. I totally believe what he’s saying, he seems like a really intense sort of guy. So sad that he thinks he sucks, cause he’s fantastic in everything I’ve seen him in. Most recently, I saw The Master, which was a so so movie, but Joaquin was incredible in it! He was robbed of the Oscar IMO, even Phillip Seymour Hoffmann didn’t deserve it.

    Regarding his looks, he’s obviously aged and he’s never been a pretty boy, but damn if he doesn’t make me tingle. He has tons of character in his face and his eyes are incredibly intense and vulnerable.

    Sigh. I’d definitely hit it.

  38. NEENAZEE says:

    He has given some of my favorite performances in some of my favorite movies… Inventing the Abbots, Gladiator, Buffalo Soldiers, Quills, Walk the Line, To Die For. I have no trouble believing that he’s a tortured artist.

  39. Moi says:

    I adore him so much. River has always been my biggest crush, so I bought the iBook “Last Night At The Viper Room” last week. I haven’t cried that much in a while. I just want to bear hug Joaquin and his siblings. Joaquin is just an honest, talented and down to earth person. You can’t help but respect that.

  40. d says:

    Yeah, I think he’s a typical actor in that he’s neurotic, but ALSO, a brilliant actor and an element of what makes him brilliant stems from neuroses. He’s able to tap into fears and other vulnerabilities and to really dig deep…which also leads I’m sure, to some kind of suffering. I’m inclined to give him a break, and hope that he takes care of himself to ensure both a good life along with a good career (I can see him getting thoroughly exhausted by his roles and I also think he’s especially vulnerable to the drug scene because of that). Hopefully, he’s got solid true friends around him instead of sycophants.
    This article did remind me of an article by Lainey Gossip way back when though, about how something in his eyes had changed (I can’t remember when) after he’d been away/drugged out?/somewhere gone? for a while and how it somewhat wasn’t for the better. As in, there was some kind of hardness in his eyes that I think she was hinting indicated hard-core drugs? Anyway, I dunno. Hope for the best, I guess.

  41. MegG says:

    Another Joaquin fan here. Thanks for reminding me about The Master, haven’t gotten around to watching that yet.

  42. Tish says:

    I’ve always loved Phoenix. I don’t care about his comments about acting and stuff at all.

  43. RHONYC says:

    “My taste is like a sophisticated four-year-old. I wish I could say I watch European movies and sh-t, but I don’t. I watch [2008’s] Step Brothers more than any other f—ing movie.”


    my brethren! a dude after my own heart! Lol


    The Master was the total sh!t. a MUST SEE!