Last year, Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Gladiator) inspired shock, skepticism, and disappointment when he told Extra he was leaving acting to pursue a career as a rap star. Growing a scraggly beard, rambling senselessly on talk shows and to reporters, and recently getting into a brawl at a Miami concert, Phoenix was soon at the center of drug abuse and mental illness rumors.
Joaquin Phoenix’s shockingly awkward and crazy interview on David Letterman (video at Gawker.com) fanned the flames of his notoriety, driving onlookers into two camps: either there was something seriously wrong with Phoenix, or it was all staged. WTMX 101.9FM radio in Chicago this morning had a guest with insider knowledge on the issue, and she claims the whole thing is indeed fake.
The WTMX insider compared the actor’s career change as an Andy Kaufman-esque stunt, done for the benefit of a documentary shot by actor Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Ocean’s Thirteen). She confirmed the fight in Miami was staged, and Page Six of the New York Post agrees. It’s all just one big joke on the Hollywood establishment, which was going to be revealed in the final cut of the documentary.
WTMX morning host shows Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart both questioned Joaquin Phoenix’s marketability after a stunt like this. The insider agreed that it could hurt his future career, especially after duping a big name like Letterman. Considering Letterman’s experience in the business, and his aggressive questioning of Phoenix, it’s a definite possibility he guessed Phoenix’s insincerity. Whether that means he’d be more forgiving of it is anyone’s guess, however.
Phoenix may face serious opposition when he tries to return to the acting scene. Ben Stiller’s parody of Phoenix at the Oscars (video on YouTube), which involved a similar shaggy beard and wandering aimlessly around stage in a supposed stupor, got a warm reception from the industry audience. When your peers are laughing at you, not with you, it could spell trouble for being taken serious in the future.
Hollywood has been historically forgiving of actors with break downs, drug abuse, and general bad boy status. Whether they are as forgiving of outright deception remains to be seen. WTMX hosts Eric and Kathy felt that how well done the Joaquin Phoenix rap star documentary is will help determine Phoenix’s future chances for movie acting and working in Hollywood.
Eric and Kathy Morning Show, Chicago WTMX 101.9, March 13, 2009.
“Joaquin Phoenix: Leaving the Silver Screen?”, ExtraTV, October 28, 2008.
“Joaquin Phoenix’s Letterman Disaster”, Gawker.com, February 11, 2009.
“Phony Fisticuffs”, New York Post, Page Six, March 13, 2009.
Ben Stiller Parody of Joaquin Phoenix at the Oscars, YouTube, February 22, 2009.