Joaquin Phoenix: ‘I’m not an artist! I don’t even know what the f— that is’

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix sat down with the Daily Mail’s Event magazine to promote his role in Her. You’ve probably heard that Joaquin plays a sad sack who falls in love with an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The movie looks irresistable but really sad, so I’ll probably wait until it hits DVD to watch it. I hate crying in movie theaters!

Joaquin fares pretty well in this talk with the Mail because he usually gives a good interview. He’s a big thinker but doesn’t wave that trait in people’s faces. The total lack of pretention is very refreshing from an actor. He also isn’t afraid to talk smack about the Academy, but he does worry all the time about his ability as an actor. I mean, he really worries about it. Here’s more of the same and some new stuff too. Joaquin is no James Franco:

Don’t call him an artist: “No, I’m not an artist! I don’t even know what the f— that is. I’m just doing the job that I like and at the end I hope to get another job that I like. I can be addicted to the process of building a character, but if in the end it doesn’t work they are not going to ask me to do any more films. If a movie is successful then it means I can work again, and that’s a pretty powerful incentive. I’m very conscious that I really couldn’t do anything else, and I don’t think anything would satisfy me as much. I’ve never really yearned for anything else. I’ve always felt satisfied doing this.”

On fame: “Celebrity is so not a part of my life. If I’m walking around and somebody comes up with a camera, it terrifies me. I can imagine that if you are Johnny Depp, for years you’ve had such a level of fame that you are somewhat accustomed to it and you expect it when you go out. I’ve managed to avoid it to the extent where I sometimes get trapped in situations that I don’t know how to deal with. I feel overwhelmed. But I’d rather be overwhelmed in those moments and enjoy my life privately. I’ve been able to have the life that I want.”

Is he more normal than other actors? “Normal is subjective. Compared to other people in the business I do live a normal life. I can’t get off set and away from it fast enough. I leave and I don’t talk to anybody in the business at all for a couple of weeks. I hate the beach. I don’t like travelling. I’m not being evasive. I just don’t like the things that most people would like. I live in LA and nobody walks the streets in LA. People aren’t famous any more for their work. They are famous for other reasons — and I don’t think that I have the other reasons. There’s no reason for a photographer to follow me around, and, if they do, they’re not going to get a lot.”

What are his days off like? “Nothing exciting, believe me. It’s why I don’t tweet because I have nothing to say. My life is really simple. I have a group of six friends who always hang out together. I take my two dogs on walks, I listen to music, I hang out with my girlfriend [Los Angeles-based DJ Allie Teil, 20, who is 19 years his junior], and I go to dinner. Honestly, it’s really boring. I even bore myself. I think I’m going to start making up sh-t that sounds really cool… like I race hot rods in the desert or something. Seriously, my life is simple and I like it.”

About that cult: “My parents left the Children of God in the 70s, before the group really started derailing. And I was only two years old, so I have no memory of it. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small blip in my life.”

Does he wonder how River’s career would have done? “No, other people, outside our family, had that relationship with him, as an actor on screen, and so of course they would have wanted to see those things. But for me that’s not what I think about. I think about the brother I loved.”

He freaked while making Gladiator: “On my first scenes Ridley ran the camera and I found out later that he didn’t even have any film in it. Literally my entire body was shaking because I was so nervous. And then Russell and Richard sat me down and said ‘Calm the f-ck down. It’s not a big deal; it’s just a movie. Have a beer and relax!’ It worked.”

When he met Johnny Cash: “John was a fan of Gladiator and so he invited me to dinner in LA. It was a very straight, family-style affair. We were sitting in the living room and John pulled out his guitar and his hands were a little shaky and I remember feeling bad because I was concerned that he felt that he had to perform and I didn’t have that expectation at all. But what I learned was that he genuinely enjoyed it and the moment his hands touched the guitar they stopped shaking. He started playing a little bit and then stopped and said, ‘I’m a little nervous, I need my partner.’ And his wife June came in and they sang Banks Of The River Jordan, which is a beautiful song about dying and being on the other side. It was really one of those incredible moments that you don’t have to embellish. They looked into each other’s eyes when they were singing the song and I just felt so lucky to be a part of it.”

On falling in love with Siri in Her: “It’s a relationship movie but it makes you think about the subjectivity of love and reality and what that is. I like it when my character says to Amy, ‘Do you think I can handle a real relationship?’ And she says, ‘Isn’t this real to you?’ And it is real to him. I love that idea because I think there are a lot of relationships we can look at right now among humans where you might say, “That’s not a real relationship”. It’s subjective and to Theodore this is real. Also, it deals with things that are specific to relationships that I think everybody can identify with, things that we’ve all experienced. He thinks he’s in love but then he doubts it and while he’s doubting it he gets jealous of Samantha. I read it and I was like ‘Wow, you don’t even see this stuff in relationship movies with humans!'”

[From Daily Mail]

I do buy most of what Joaquin is selling here. He’s very nervous about performing well for directors and not disappointing studios with lackluster ticket sales. He doesn’t simply collect his paychecks and expect that more will arrive without much effort. Outside of film sets, Joaquin’s a pretty low-key guy (especially on the red carpet) and doesn’t run with a Hollywood crowd. The only thing destroying this picture? The classic Hollywood formula of a 39-year-old dude dating a 20-year-old hottie. I still can’t get over that inconsistency.

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet & WENN

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21 Responses to “Joaquin Phoenix: ‘I’m not an artist! I don’t even know what the f— that is’”

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  1. Erinn says:

    Wasn’t he good looking once? I’m looking at these photos and there’s absolutely ZERO attraction to the guy.

    • PoliteTia says:

      Yes he WAS! I thought he quit acting? So why are we being bothered with him in a movie? Joaquin needs to:
      Drop 35 pounds
      Take a shower
      Visit a barber… Then we can talk.

  2. G says:

    So happy to see him in a good place and at peace with himself and his “job” (giggle). The story about Johnny and June was a treasure and glad I read the whole article to uncover it!

  3. nico says:

    “But for me that’s not what I think about. I think about the brother I loved.”

    I like how he handled that question. I still need to watch “My Own Private Idaho” to see the performance that everyone talks about when discussing River.

    • Nayru says:

      Definitely agree. The question seems silly in retrospect.

    • Victoria1 says:

      That’s a great movie! Both young good looking actors… Keanu seriously was in his prime then, although I’d still hit it with a vengeance hehe

      • lower-case deb says:

        Haha! You remind me of me when seeing Keanu on the off chance I go to the movies. It’s like once every few years. Seeing him is like watching several Die Hard movies. Only this one goes: Hit It Hard. Hit it Twice. Three Times Lucky Hit. Hit It or Die. Hit It Hard 5: With A Vengeance.

    • Cali says:

      Did you read the most recent book about River? (Last Night at the Viper Room) I just finished it this weekend and it was really interesting. It wasn’t simply about River’s life – it explained so many fascinating connections and offshoot stories about the other stars who were up and coming at the time and it also shared a lot about the Phoenix/Bottom family life.

  4. Suze says:

    He’s very articulate and gives a great interview. I even got a little teary when he was discussing Johnny Cash and when he was discussing River.

  5. Kiddo says:

    He’s a very good actor. I hope he continues to work and to keep his private life private.

  6. moon says:

    Scarjo looks good here, but what is Rooney Mara wearing?

  7. Maria says:

    I haven’t been able to watch him since catching the first 15 minutes of the documentary he did a few years back, ugh.

    • decorative item says:

      I’m with you. The fact that he even pulled that BS turned me right off him. I’ve loved him for years, but as soon as he did that I was done. Everyone talks about how “down to earth” and deep this guy is, but I found that documentary to be the most condescending, childish, attention seeking pile of rubbish ever. It was like he was messing with his fan base and calling them out for being so stupid that he could pull any BS off and they would suck it up. He may not be as vapid as many in Hollywood, but that doesn’t make him deep.

  8. NYC_girl says:

    I saw “Her” alone last Friday. Big mistake. It made me very sad, especially since I broke up with my boyfriend of a year. I cried several times. I fear that we are not that far from the human/computer interaction in the film; people are so disconnected. I took a photo a few months ago on the subway here – 5 people in a row sitting down, looking at their phones. Then, as I was about to leave the theater, I realized I lost one of my favorite mittens! LOL

  9. mj says:

    Maybe I’m the only one but… I’m giving him a pass on the age difference. I think he’s a peculiar, and probably beautiful (if simplistically so) person and I would wager that he’s much more of an artist than ahem Bradley Cooper or Leo D. I know, I know, his image is more “artsy” but I don’t care. Also, his girlfriend is not a blonde model. There are just a lot of distinctions between what I see of his relationship and what I’ve seen of other male actors’ relationships with younger women. He seems sort of fragile.

    • lisa says:

      I find it interesting no one has really commented on how much older Paul Walker was than his girlfriend. They got together when she was 16, and he was 34. Paul Walker was such a humanitarian, so does that give him a pass?

  10. Isabelle says:

    One of the best actors in Hollywood if not the best. He’s just a little on the quirky side and unpredictable. Think his talent is often ignored because of his personality and odd behavior. Hollywood where the over-the-top behavior, narcissism & debauchery are celebrated, quirky is still frowned on.