Joaquin Phoenix still suffers ‘debilitating, terrifying’ anxiety on movie sets

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix has a new interview with Playboy to promote Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Playboy interview that wasn’t a breezy, 20-questions column, and this sucker is long and detailed. You can read the whole thing here. These excerpts are the more interesting ones. At one point, Joaquin seems defensive (when talking about his philosophy on death), but it was right after the journo pressed him for information on Philip Seymour Hoffman. Joaquin declined to answer the question, and then the journo brought up how Joaquin witnessed his brother’s untimely death. Rude.

Joaquin covers a lot of ground here, including a few words on the his Doctor Strange casting that fell apart. That’s for the best. Joaquin doesn’t do well for extended publicity runs. Can you imagine him dealing with a Comic-Con atmosphere? He’d be a wreck. Joaquin also confirms that David Letterman definitely wasn’t in on the joke during that Andy Kaufman-life appearance. Yeah, Dave was irritated to not be invited to the party. Let’s do this:

On that awkward Letterman appearance: “David Letterman was not in on the joke. My agents, my publicist Sue Patricola–she’s really good in the movie because she seems so concerned, right?–they were all in on it, of course. But look, David Letterman is one of the smartest guys on television. There’s no way that guy doesn’t know what’s going on in some way. That’s what I’ll say about it.”

On being recognized in public: “It’s like when you notice somebody walk past you, then stop and turn around. I started to realize it’s the same thing that sometimes happens to attractive women. When someone is shuffling back and forth, it makes me uneasy. I’m definitely not interested. But if somebody comes up and goes, ‘Hey, how are you? My name is so-and-so’–great. I’ll rap with you. If you’re genuine in your curiosity about something, that’s great. But that sycophantic energy is uncomfortable to be around. Nobody wants to experience that. A woman came up the other day in a store and said, ‘I’m really sorry, but can we take a picture?’ I said, ‘You know what? I don’t do that, but thanks so much for coming up. I mean, I’m here with two of my friends and you’re alone and came up and said hi. That was really brave of you.’ Whatever energy she had was gone instantly. We chatted a bit. It was fun. Then she went and bought her f—ing tube socks and I bought my stupid little sweatpants, and that was it.”

His experience with the Children of God cult: “As I understand it, you’re on the outside of that group until you’re accepted. I don’t think we ever got to that point, because frankly, as it got closer, I think my parents went, ‘Wait a minute. This is more than a religious community. There’s something else going on here, and this doesn’t seem right.’ And so they left very early on. I think it was really innocent on my parents’ part. They really believed, but I don’t think most people see it that way. I’ve always thought that was strange and unfair.”

His rumored refusal to wear leather on set: “I don’t know where that came from, because in Walk the Line there were definitely some vintage boots, and I’m sure there was leather in Gladiator too. I don’t wear leather in my life, but with movies, there are some things I struggle with, like if there are budget constraints or a particular vintage thing they need. For food on set, vegan is pretty common now. There are veggie burgers at f—ing fast-food restaurants and sh-t. So I think people are pretty good with that.”

His theories on the afterlife: “I don’t have a f—ing clue, man. I mean, Jesus f—. If you told me I’m a f—ing video game that some aliens are playing somewhere, well, that seems totally plausible to me. Hey, you and I might be some kind of simulation from someone 200 years in the future. I don’t f—ing know. I mean, anybody’s theory seems plausible. So I say, let go, man. Just let go.”

He still freaks out on set: “No, I still find it terrifying, and that’s crazy, isn’t it? In some ways, it’s f—ing ridiculous that I’ve literally been doing it for 30 years and still feel like it’s the f—ing first time I’m making a movie every time I go in. It’s probably good, though, just because it means I still care and it matters so much to me. But I think it’s a motivating anxiety and fear, as opposed to a debilitating one. Maybe sometimes it’s debilitating, and it can get in the way. Hopefully I’ve gotten better at not fighting it, knowing it’s there and just allowing myself to walk with my fear.”

On “turning down” Doctor Strange: “I can’t talk about it. I’ve met on all sorts of movies throughout the years. What seems appealing about some of them is the idea of pushing myself in a way that’s out of my comfort zone. But really, it’s what I’m always looking for–good characters, big ideas and a passionate filmmaker. If those things line up with any kind of movie, I have interest in it. I thought Iron Man was fantastic.”

[From Playboy]

The journo also asked about Joaquin’s 20-year-old DJ girlfriend, and he deflects by saying, “Relationships are difficult, so adding public awareness is probably not a good thing.” I still feel pretty uncomfortable seeing them in public together. But I love that Joaquin isn’t full of himself and still questions his abilities as an actor. He’s not sitting there with “steepled hands” mulling over his “craft.” Dude just shows up and does his job. Maybe he spends a few moments curled up in fetal position before the cameras roll, but he works it out.

Joaquin Phoenix

Photos courtesy of WENN

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20 Responses to “Joaquin Phoenix still suffers ‘debilitating, terrifying’ anxiety on movie sets”

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  1. Falkor says:

    Debilitating anxiety is a bitch and with comorbidities it’s like eight bitches on a bitch boat. I can sympathize with dude here.

  2. kri says:

    I like how honest he is about his limits with othes and himself. I’m always saying I would love to be wealthy, but I would hate being famous. Anxiety is an issue for me-can’t even think what it would be like to be famous and have to deal with i.

  3. Coco says:

    He shouldn’t question his abilities as an actor because he is really talented, one of the best actors working today if you ask me. Can wait to see Inherent Vice!

  4. Angie says:

    There’s something strange and sexy about this man that makes me wanna be naughty…very, very naughty………….MMEEEOOOOWWWW

  5. roxy750 says:

    Great interview. I have a different view of him now. Hmmm

  6. INeedANap says:

    Jesus, could you have imagined that echo chamber of anxiety and breakdowns between him and Chris Evans had Joaquin been hired as Doctor Strange? NO.

  7. Sumodo1 says:

    Joaquin, I can relate! It isn’t just nervousness with an anxiety disorder, there are lots of bodily things going on: urges to urinate or defecate, profuse sweating, elevated heart rate, shaking, dizziness, nausea, sleepiness, feeling too hot or too cold, and of course, just wanting to curl up in a fetal position. I’ve had times when ALL of the above happened simultaneously. I was a TV anchor. I stay on my meds and now, am retired at age 58. Having a dog helps enormously as far as relaxation and being in the moment goes, so I’m good.

  8. Ginger says:

    WOW! I can’t believe the journo asked about his brother. That’s beyond rude. That was so tragic and horrifying as a fan of River’s let alone as his sibling. People can be so thoughtless. But other than that, I like Joaquin’s approach to interacting with fans. I’ve often met people I idolized and I like to really have an experience or a conversation with them rather than simply getting an autograph or a photo. Anyone can do that.

  9. Ciria says:

    I used to find him so interesting and attractive but that bit he did pretending to be a jerk and on Dave Letterman killed it for me. Have never looked at him the same after that.

  10. Dorothy#1 says:

    I loves him ❤❤

  11. Penelope says:

    I’ve always loved him and found him both talented and gorgeous. The Letterman thing was obnoxious but I’m over it. 🙂

  12. Angie says:

    I’ve always found him very attractive. A sexy weirdo for lack of a better phrase. I enjoyed the interview too. He seems very honest and authentic. I like him!

  13. boo says:

    I find him so compelling as an actor, it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. There is something so vulnerable and hurt about him, yet at the same time he seems to be strong. Maybe the fact that he has all these conflicting emotions and anxieties is what makes him a great actor. He does not phone it in, he reminds me a bit of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in that way.

  14. Anguishedcorn says:

    What’s the saying?… I’d bang him like a screen door in a hurricane?

    And, “Steepled hands mulling over his craft” is my new favorite phrase that I will have to use at some point, soon.

  15. mom2two says:

    Joaquin Phoenix is one of the best, if not best, actors of his generation. It sucks the journalist asked him about River (who was really talented in his own right) but Joaquin was very honest and forthright in this interview. He really does not seem to have a pretentious bone in his body and comes across like a regular guy who happens to act for a living. I liked what he said about Marvel, meeting fans in the street, the afterlife and everything reported here.
    I would say he’s an actor that deserves more attention, but he wouldn’t like it, so I’d say I appreciate his talent and work. I’ve liked his performances in everything I’ve seen him in.

  16. Meg says:

    He is one of my favorite actors ever-so entertaining to watch. You can’t argue against how talented he is.
    I’ve seen and heard his past interactions with the media that haven’t gone well and my first thought is-this is the only access fans have to you, your frustration with the media and their invasion into your brothers death is coming across as directed towards the public-which makes Joaquin come across poorly.
    You can go online and listen to the 911 call he made the night River passed-that would be a very personal and painful thing for anyone and to have made so public and accessible- so you can start to relate and understand why he’s not in love with the media.
    He has seemed to act better since the interview he did some time ago where he kind of ‘went off’ on the awards and doing publicity for them. Someone must have gotten to him-his publicist, manager, agent-someone threatened to no longer work with him because IMO he’s gotten much much better since then. Maybe he’s made the decision to work less, or they’ve made changes so he doesn’t do quite as much press or restricts it to only certain outlets who seem to be have better? I remember him walking out of the press conference for the master-at the premiere of inherent vice he smiled a lot and seemed to be ‘faking it’ quite well. He ran up to fans to sign things-or maybe he’s with someone new and is just happier in general

  17. homegrrll says:

    Ever since the 18yr old gf I just see him as a pedo. Sorry. Can’t w jp

  18. libertyIII says:

    Loved him in The Immigrant, unbelievable performance, and can’t wait to see Inherent Vice. What a super talented, down to earth human being who is able to admit his flaws, who doesn’t seek out the limelight, because he doesn’t have to and chooses not to. He is one of the greatest actors ever.