Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2010 by David Chen
Well, that was fun while it lasted.
After months of speculation, actor/director Casey Affleck has finally come out and confirmed what many have suspected for a long time: the Joaquin Phoenix documentary, I’m Still Here, is fake, and not much more than one long, elaborate performance.
The NYTimes has the story, and gives a few tantalizing quotes from an interview with Affleck. The entire movie is apparently a performance and Affleck calls it a “terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career.”
That being said, Affleck also bizarrely claims, “I never intended to trick anybody…The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.” Really, Casey? Really? There’s also an explanation for why Affleck has played dumb until now:
Mr. Affleck…said he wanted audiences to experience the film’s narrative, about the disintegration of celebrity, without the clutter of preconceived notions. So he said little in interviews. “We wanted to create a space,” he said. “You believe what’s happening is real.”
I actually totally buy this. If Affleck had come out and confirmed that it was all a hoax at the Venice Film Festival (where the film premiered), it would have put the film in an entirely new light and none of the rampant speculation would even exist. But I’m curious as to why Affleck has come out with the truth now, at this specific moment, before the press tour has even finished.
Referring to some of the more troubling sequences in the film, where Phoenix clashes with his assistants/”friends” and has some fun with hookers, Affleck explains, “There were multiple takes, these are performances.”
Affleck also acknowledges that the movie does nothing to make its falseness explicit. “There was no wink,” Affleck said. But it seems like the act will soon be over; Affleck confirms that Phoenix will not appear in character when he returns to Letterman on September 22.
I “enjoyed” watching the film, insofar as I thought it convincingly presented Phoenix as a tragic figure, but I actually enjoyed discussing the film even more. In this week’s bonus /Filmcast episode, there’s one thing that my colleague Matt Singer said that I heartily agree with: if Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in I’m Still Here was all an elaborate put-on, then it’s one of the most method performances I’ve ever seen in my life.
But was the whole elaborate ruse worth it? If the whole thing was fake, Phoenix put the brakes on a promising career for a few years, humiliated himself during countless “hip hop” performances, and arguably sabotaged the press tour for his last film Two Lovers. Until there’s a more full accounting of what Phoenix and Affleck were trying to accomplish, I’ll withhold judgment. A lot of people, however, have already spoken. “The reviews were so angry,” said Affleck. Indeed.