Is Joaquin Phoenix Our Modern Day Andy Kaufman?
By Jett Wells Posted Sep 17th 2010 12:59PM
Pop-Ed: When Casey Affleck announced Joaquin Phoenix's career transformation was fake, it was like when Adam Lambert finally came out of the closet to Rolling Stone. No duh.
It was like the the longest bad joke in history, and no one even seemed to care anymore, until Casey Affleck's trailer for 'I'm Still Here' was released a few weeks ago. Now, after it's opening weekend and all the bizarre events leading up to this moment, the movie couldn't even crack $1 million, and Affleck wants us to believe this was the "performance of his career." Maybe it was.
This might go down as the worst career move an actor could ever make -- next to starring in a Carrot Top movie -- or it could mean Joaquin Phoenix is a genius and our modern day Andy Kaufman.
Before he died in 1984, Kaufman was the master of performance art. He fooled millions with his hoaxes time and time again. He even faked a spinal accident during a wrestling match on live television. Some people hated him, but others loved him and praised him as the ultimate prankster.
WATCH THE 'I'M STILL HERE TRAILER':But there's a glaring difference between Phoenix and Kaufman. Phoenix isn't a comedian, and he wasn't doing this to make people laugh. He did it to send a message about Hollywood and the "disintegration of celebrity." Kaufman could at least rebound from his pranks because people knew he was a jokester before he pulled them, but it's going to be a lot harder for Phoenix to return to Oscar-contender form after this epic charade.
Phoenix is truly an artist for the career-threatening risk he took to undertake his bearded rapper transformation. It must have been a great conversation between Affleck and Phoenix when they discussed how this could change both of their lives forever. Phoenix put everything on the line for Affleck -- not just his career but also his integrity and his legacy. Phoenix has been in hiding and in character since January 2009 -- an astonishing 17 months, give or take. You could say Phoenix's performance was mind-bogglingly stupid and oft-blatantly obvious, but it was also an incredible sacrifice and testament of commitment to his art.
Also consider that Phoenix wasn't a B-level actor before he took on this project. He was nominated for two Oscars for 'Gladiator' and 'Walk the Line,' and was a rising star on track to becoming an elite talent. He wouldn't risk all of that if he wasn't a truly passionate actor, meaning he's got more guts than any performer in Hollywood today. Even though the project was a disaster and didn't receive good reviews or impress anyone, Phoenix can still take solace in the fact that he rose above the politics and money of Hollywood.
Although Affleck will recover from this, what will happen to Phoenix is a question mark. It all starts next Wednesday, September 22, when he returns to the 'The Late Show With David Letterman,' where Phoenix shocked the world with his spooky-awkward new personality. He won't be in character, and Phoenix will talk his way out of this mess. Affleck shouldn't have made a documentary about Phoenix's fake personality -- he should make made one about Phoenix's comeback story.
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