Why aren’t we talking about how Joaquin Phoenix is playing the game this year?

Joaquin Phoenix poses in the press room at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 5, 2020 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States.

I feel like this has not gotten enough attention during this compressed awards season: Joaquin Phoenix is playing the game. Maybe he always played the game to some extent, but in the old days, he would complain bitterly about the game. In 2012, when he was promoting The Master (which would earn him his third Oscar nomination), he was asked by Interview Magazine about the awards season hullabalu. This is what he said:

“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.”

[From Interview Magazine via 2012 Celebitchy Post]

He went on to attend every major awards show in support of The Master. He lost across the board, and everyone moved on. But now he’s gotten his fourth Oscar nomination, this time for Joker. He already made some interesting moves to actually promote Joker, like agreeing to the Vanity Fair cover story, attending events with his girlfriend Rooney Mara, playing dumb when asked about the incel-y message of Joker. Now he’s winning everything, and he seems pleased with his Oscar nomination too. He released this statement after the nominations were released:

No nihilism this time around, huh. I wonder if this is just the deal he made with himself, or the deal he made with the studio (Warner Bros). Maybe he’s just “grown up” and felt like, hell, I’m in my 40s now and being recognized by my peers is actually a cool thing. Maybe he still doesn’t know how to feel about the financial juggernaut of Joker (it’s made more than a billion dollars), or the awards recognition (it’s the Oscar-nomination leader). Still, it feels like Joaquin has made a conscious choice to play the game this time around.

Speaking of, he sat down with Anderson Cooper for a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday. They even mentioned River!! And he agreed to allow Anderson to interview his mom and sisters. You can see the full interview here. Here’s the “overtime” feature they put on YouTube:

Rain Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix at arrival...

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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56 Responses to “Why aren’t we talking about how Joaquin Phoenix is playing the game this year?”

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  1. Sierra says:

    They all end up playing the game to win that Oscar.

    Leo did it few years, Joachim and Brad Pitt are doing it now.

    I don’t see anything wrong with it but please don’t claim you don’t campaign and then campaign.

    • Rashida says:

      Well we remember Rami Malek selling his soul for an oscar last year, and he very much has owned the ‘rare earnest adorable awkward’ presence & then told some blatant lies that truly undermined that. Lol maybe Joaquin is pissed that Rami won last year. Malek was in The Master w/a small role & had several intense scenes where you could tell Phoenix would be…Something to deal w/between takes.

      Anyway I’m over it. &…does the Academy know other female directors exist besides Greta Gerwig? they’ve existed even *gasp* the 90 years the oscars have been around, too! Still upset Ava Duvernay didn’t get the nom or awards campaign she deserved for Selma.

    • Ella says:

      trust me, behind the scenes it’s worse in a deliriously amoral way. it’s *exactly* like political lobbying. Exactly.

  2. TheOtherSam says:

    He’s absolutely playing the game this season, and playing it well. I was impressed by how articulate and insightful he was in the 60 Minutes pieces.

    I think he’s got the Oscar in the bag at this point. But bravo for making a great effort to do the campaigning, and do it well. It goes toward erasing his ‘difficult’ image he’s had (fair or unfair) for some time.

    • LadyMTL says:

      I saw the 60 Minutes segment as well, and was impressed by how he seems to have matured and “calmed down” (for lack of a better word.) Maybe being in a relationship with Rooney Mara has helped him mature and grow as a person? I’m not surprised at all that he’s playing the Oscars PR game now, pretty much everyone does it if they really want to have a shot at winning.

      What did surprise me was that 60M brought up River Phoenix at all, considering how painful it must have been and probably still is. I can’t believe he would have been 50 this year!

    • Spicecake38 says:

      I agree with you both,watched 60 minutes and read The vanity Fair piece he did,it was all mature,calm,interesting.I think he’s still being portrayed as a very eccentric guy but he’s showing his grown up side-softer and happier.

      I also think he’s truly proud of his work in Joker,the physical transformation was astounding alone,and he was the whole movie.

    • FHMom says:

      He certainly has matured. He should win for Joker. He was brilliant.

  3. Rocķy says:

    How any of those siblings manage to function in any normal fashion is amazing to me after the childhood they endured. I admit I have a soft spot for Joaquin

  4. Jenns says:

    I always love when actors act as if they are above the Hollywood BS. Because they all want an Oscar.

  5. Veronica S says:

    I agree with the writers over at Lainey Gossip that it just goes to show how NOT groundbreaking and original the movie really is if it’s embraced this easily. Really hard hitting social commentary doesn’t go down that easily.

    • stormsmama says:


      but no harm with Joaquin now—
      I 100% believe his change of tune is bc he found true love-
      when you are happy you want to sustain it- you want to nurture it and enrich it
      He seems calm and content
      He’s always been a good actor
      that has never been in question:
      he is brilliant in Gladiator and Walk the Line
      This is his breakthrough to a new level of fame and with that comes this kind of mega press
      and he is ready bc he is in love-
      the (hollywood) world has been waiting for him to arrive since Space Camp
      and then again after River died
      And the rest of the world has now done so with Joker
      This is his moment
      he has arrived- this is private of course – but he is compelling bc we all know the roots of his story are wacky-
      He is able to take advantage and Be Here Now so to speak
      I think BECAUSE of love; bc of Rooney

      So…at the end of the day I am
      Happy for him
      just…VERY annoyed by Todd Phillips and Joker so white

      • Veronica S says:

        He probably deserves the Oscar nom – most people who’ve seen have told me he’s great in it, which I’d expect from his past work – but the movie itself I’ve heard is a mixed bag and definitely not deserving of the inflated praise. I’m waiting to see it once it leaves theatres, but I suspect it’s biggest flaw is that it just won’t be as provocative as they think it is. So like…happy for him, just wish it was some of his more interesting work.

  6. Kebbie says:

    I can’t help but like him. He seems really happy in his life right now. Not sure if it’s because of Rooney or he’s just more settled or what. Either way, I’m glad he’s playing the game. I always like to see more of him, and he’s incredibly talented.

  7. Case says:

    Hmm. I don’t know much about Phoenix specifically, but I do typically like actors who are the shy and humble type and have similar ideas about awards. I think you can be uncomfortable with aspects of the award circuit, feel it’s a subjective honor, but still feel honored nonetheless when your peers recognize your achievements. It’s a complicated thing. He did say in one of his speeches that there’s no real “competition” between him and the other actors and it was all a bit meaningless, so it seems like he still feels similarly.

    I do wonder if sometimes they’re contractually obligated to attend these events to campaign if the film gets nominated? I’d imagine so.

  8. Lucy says:

    I hope he wins.

  9. Dabadass says:

    That family, it was not a healthy environment. It was so sad when River died. I believe Joaquin deserves accolades or nominations for this performance. He was spectacular. I confess to lilking the movie too though the bad guys won. The undertones of toxic masculinity and being incel were fascinating and terrifying. I certainly wouldn’t glorify them , but showing them in a cartoonish manner serves to encourage at least some critical thinking about how awful they are. Am I right or is that too much to ask?

    • lucia says:

      You’re wrong.

    • Elisa says:

      I work at a university and some of our students organised a screening of the movie at a cinema in our city and discussed it with a well-known psychotherapist afterwards (some sort of panel discussion). So at least for our students it definitely encouraged critical thinking.

  10. Toniko says:

    IDK what’s wrong with me but the thought of Joaquin&Mara …emm together.. is so hot to me.

  11. Valiantly Varnished says:

    All of these white male actors say that…and then they play the game. Brad said it, Leo said it, Joaquin said it..,and then they reach a certain age and they have been a part of the system for awhile and the system supports and protects them and…they play ball.

    • Marty says:


    • Kebbie says:

      I think a lot of that posturing is about protecting their fragile egos. When they know they’re not expected to win, they “don’t care” and awards are just subjective and meaningless. When they can smell a win, they’re suddenly ready to play ball. I agree with your point about the system supporting them. White men who are “due” win academy awards. Women who are “due” don’t.

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        I think that’s a part of it as well. But all of these guys positioned themselves as “rebels” and “outsiders” of the “system” at the beginning of their careers. Kind of hard to do that when you’re now in your 40’s and 50’s and you’ve been part of the system for more than 20 years.

    • KL says:

      It’s easy and fun to position yourself as “outside” the system when deep down you know the system will always welcome you back with open arms.

      It’s the same story as other white (and often but not always) male “rebels” who focused on their own angst and lack of fulfillment — as opposed to those who used their privilege to draw attention to those who lacked it. People who can afford to be so openly scornful of the game were never going to be denied top player status in the first place. So they get all the cool points, while those who fight for a seat at the table are seen as greedy or grasping, or concerned with self-promotion instead of art. As if there is no correlation between self-promoting — saying “I have something to contribute, I am worthy of investment” — and being ALLOWED to make art in this profit-driven industry.

      Phoenix and his brethren can’t lose for winning. That’s down to the system and not him as an individual, but I think if he’s smart enough to game the system, he’s smart enough to understand how it works. He wasn’t brave then, he isn’t particularly grown-up now — he’s always just getting his.

  12. GG4eva says:

    Really like Joaquin a lot! Hope he wins. Love Joaquin and Rooney Mara together. Super talented couple.

  13. Earthbound says:

    He’s always been a great actor in my opinion. Even when he was a kid. Most people want awards and recognition once they are no longer young. Joaquin is middle aged now, mid 40s. I think he was born in 75 ish. I wish he never was friends with Affleck, but at least he doesnt talk to him anymore. Joaquin himself wasnt accused of sexual harrassment so he is still ok to me.

    • Jerusha says:

      He was incredibly good in Parenthood. I think of him the way I always thought of Jodie Foster. They were never “child actors.” They were actors who happened to be a child at the time.

  14. Lilly (with the double-L) says:

    I’m not talking about it, because it’s booorrrring. But, that’s not all on JP, I wasn’t interested in his movie and the Oscar noms are expected and equally uninteresting. I won’t be watching the award show and, so, maybe it’s a perfect time for him, since there will be less interest and all the white dudes can pat each other on the back among each other, without asking each other any uncomfortable questions about #oscarssowhite no women directors or POC noms.

  15. Jerusha says:

    I think he’s happy in his personal life. He seems much more relaxed and less spiky now. He and Rooney Mara seem perfect for each other.

    I wish he’d won for Walk the Line instead.

    • Blueskies says:

      I wish he had won for Walk The Line, too, whom was he up against that year? I watched WTL for only the second time just recently and he and Reece are both superb in it. I can appreciate those performances much more now and I think Reece did win an Oscar for hers.

  16. Dal says:

    Who knows maybe he’s more calm in life Then when he gave that interview ..maybe he is Acknowledging his success and recognition..

  17. Meg says:

    When I first saw him agree to talk about river I thought yep you’re playing the game now aren’t you? Loved when Tina fey called him out at the globes then said hi Joaquin! There’s a way to say what he’s saying without making journalists lives more difficult like he did backstage after winning this year, ‘ive already answered these questions for like 6 months.’ this isnt your first movie dude stop playing dumb like you don’t know how this works. You’re not the only one who dislikes this process but you come across worse than others. Those journalists are just doing their jobs and many of them are nice people

    • smcollins says:

      I get what you’re saying about the press and that he just needs to deal with it as a part of the job, but to imply that he’s using the memory of his late brother to win awards is really unfair. Yes, he’s playing ball this time around, but maybe he’s also in a place where he can talk more openly about River. Maybe it’s cathartic for him, who knows? But I don’t think he would ever go there just for some good PR.

      • Meg says:

        LOL how is that unfair? This post points out how rare it is for him to talk about river and is now while campaigning for an Oscar- thats pretty cut and dry

  18. Powermoonchrystal says:

    He always played the game. As we have seen with this year’s nominations, you need to campaign even for the nomination itself, even if you are deserving . Maybe before he was playing the game as the “method actor” too serious and talented for awards (rolling my eyes so hard), but you do not get 4 nominations without. His performance was certainly outstanding, but I wish Antonio Banderas would win :) He is more versatile, in my opinion

  19. Sorella says:

    I have to say I agree with Lainey – I would be more impressed if he played a regular dude (like a family man in a suit hahah) and not a weirdo or eccentric – now THAT would show he is a good actor. I like him, but why must EVERY role be the oddball, he has Johnny Depp syndrome, they play kooks ALL the time, and it is tiresome – where is the range?!?! Yes e is good in Joker, but I don’t feel it was WOW, what a good actor acting! Antonio B deserves that Oscar!! !!!

    Kind of like Jennifer Lopez playing a sexy stripper – you are sexy JLO and you do the poses, you show your body off everyday and you do those sexy (questionable) open-mouth poses in real life and even in romcoms, you end up the frump girl gets sexy – so show me something NEW!! Do a Charlize and start ACTING, dig deeper!!! I don’t mind JLO but acting is not her strength, and singers have trouble doing it as we cannot unsee JLO (or Madonna or Lady Gaga ect).

    JLO or Joaquin BOTH need more unique roles we’ve never seen them in before! They are not the only 2 actors in this situation though, many of them play in their comfort zone.

    • Kate says:

      Hard disagree on JLo. I love her best as an actress, and I have since Out of Sight! I don’t think she needs to play a nerdy scientist or like an underweight junkie to prove her acting ability.

      • Sorella says:

        Agree to disagree – Out of Sight was her LAST good movie and that was over a decade or so ago – otherwise mostly romcoms where she plays JLO as a “plain: girl who finds her pretty *yawn*. Not showing me range, but maybe I’m not the audience for her subpar romcoms like that one where she plays a check out girl on Netflix (see forgettable!). I think she excels as DANCER that is and has always been her main talent and she is very good at that and her pop hits are catchy. And she is good at selling beauty and selling perfume. So yes, I need her to show more than Maid in Manhattan lol

  20. CK says:

    When was he ever not playing the game? I don’t get invited into industry events, but I remember it being stated off hand while he was doing his “I won’t play the game” shtick last time around that he was still in fact playing the game.

  21. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    It’s always amazing what shutting mouths and graciously smiling can do for humans.

  22. Annetommy says:

    He was sensational in You Were Never Really Here, another film directed by a woman who should have got a nomination in 2019. He’s older now than when he was in The Master, sometimes people get less idealistic. It’s only a metal man.

  23. Beatles says:

    This is 100% down to Rooney. He literally said it, I can’t recall if it was in the 60 Minutes piece or somewhere else I read, he said Rooney actually sat him down and said something along the lines of “do you realize how lucky you are to have the opportunity to do the amazing roles that you do, that just doesn’t keep happening over and over again (Cash, The Master, Joker, etc.) like that with most people”.

    It’s not about playing the game, I think he finally found someone who gave him the wake-up call he needed to stop acting petulant and ungracious for all the privilege he has.

  24. stormsmama says:

    A beautiful segment. He is such a compelling person.

  25. Roo says:

    I’ve always been a fan of his. He’s able to FULLY embody characters. It’s amazing to watch. It was painful (in a good way) watching him in The Master–he used his whole body in the role to convey the pain of his alcoholism. I hope he wins!!

  26. Naddie says:

    I once read he was the most “anti Oscar” actors around. Oh well.

  27. Normades says:

    He’s totally got this. I think his relationship really stablized him and he’s comfortable enough to play the game. He’s also got her at his side to help.

    I love them together and want them to make edgy vegan babies together. I bet they will get married when awards season is over.

  28. A.Key says:

    Yeah they all end up as sell-outs in the end, it’s America after all.
    But regardless, he is a fantastic actor.
    I still think Commodus was his best role. Also adored him in Her.