Eighteen months ago Joaquin Phoenix set tongues wagging when he announced he was quitting acting to concentrate on his music career, and he later appeared on David Letterman's show looking bearded, bloated and incoherent.
Further fuelling the mystique, he agreed to star in a documentary directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck, I'm Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix, which was screened for potential buyers in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the doco shows him snorting cocaine, ordering call girls, having oral sex with a publicist, abusing his assistants and rapping badly. But is all that real, or an elaborate prank?
Even those who watched the doco aren't sure. As the Times reported, attendees “left the screening perhaps even more mystified by Phoenix's behaviour than when they walked in.”
One scene shows the 35-year-old Phoenix trying to get Sean “Diddy” Combs to produce his rap album and getting a brush-off. Another depicts Ben Stiller approaching Phoenix about starring in writer-director Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, but eliciting little interest.
“There's a lot of people who've now seen it and are still asking if it's a hoax or not,” one potential distributor told Entertainment Weekly. “Whoever buys it will know, but they aren't telling anyone ahead of time.”
Well, Phoenix was nominated for Academy Awards for his performances in Gladiator and Walk the Line. Perhaps he saw the doco as just another role, although that's a dubious way of trying to re-activate his acting career if that's his motive.
According to IMDB.com, his last film was James Gray's romantic drama Two Lovers, which was released in 2008. Some folks are keen to see Joaquin on screen again while others seem to have given up him.
“What's up with this guy?” posted one person in response to the LA Times article. “He has $100 mil. in the bank and he's acting like Howard Hughes. When is he gonna fly the Spruce Goose.”
Another sceptic opined, “What a waste of talent, he spent a year filming himself snorting drugs, having sex and making bad music, whoever pays to see this piece of garbage is as sick as Joaquin and Casey.”
Responded one admirer, “I've always like Joaquin Phoenix, even back when he was called Leif...if he's in a movie that actually shows someone taking a dump on him and it's made by Casey Affleck (LOVE him too!) then by jeezums I am gonna watch it!!!”