Since before Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master came out, we’ve been hearing about the Oscar buzz for the drama/thriller about a troubled young man brought under the wing of a charismatic religious leader. I haven’t had a chance to see the movie, but my friends who went reported that while they had their issues with the plot, Joaquin Phoenix was aces and they could easily see him being nominated.
Just don’t tell him that. Interview‘s Elvis Mitchell sat down with the eccentric actor recently. Maybe we should’ve guessed that Phoenix wouldn’t take well to awards talk, since he kicked off the encounter by smirking and saying, “Good luck with this conversation.” He was happy to delve into The Master, saying how he constantly feared he was getting fired and how he worked his way through various scenes. But when Mitchell brought up the likelihood of the film getting nominated, Phoenix’s reaction was weirdly standoffish:
MITCHELL: So what are you going to do when they put you on the awards circuit for The Master?
PHOENIX: You’re out of your mind, dude. You’re out of touch with what has happened.
MITCHELL: I think we’ve established that you’re the one who’s out of his mind. [Phoenix laughs] You don’t think that’s going to happen?
PHOENIX: I’m just saying that I think it’s bullshit. I think it’s total, utter bullshit, 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.
Perhaps we should’ve expected this backlash, since this is the man who spent a year fooling everyone into thinking he was giving up acting to become a rapper, only for it to be a performance-art experiment for his brother-in-law Casey Affleck‘s documentary I’m Still Here. (He gives some fascinating insights into that as well, later in the interview, especially about how he couldn’t tell anyone that it was fake.) Don’t forget that Phoenix grew up in the spotlight and lost his equally famous brother River Phoenix to a heroin/cocaine overdose.
He also makes a point in the interview that “I’m probably never going to be happy”—as in, if he ever were entirely satisfied with his performance, it couldn’t have been very good. I’m just surprised that he doesn’t try and look at it from the other side of things, i.e., the joy of making art (like The Master and, some might argue, I’m Still Here) and to appreciate being honored even if he doesn’t agree with the way in which he’s honored. I’m curious to see if Anderson feels the same way about his film being nominated.
Photo: Dominic Chan/WENN.com