Joaquin Phoenix: Greatest, Most Reluctant Celebrity of His Generation?

New York Times Magazine profiles the life of the charismatic and eccentric 42-year-old actor.

September 9, 2017 5:00 am

What drives Joaquin Phoenix, one of the most eccentric, enigmatic, and accomplished actors working today? The New York Times Magazine recently profiled him to find out.

Joaquin Phoenix has no social media presence, a rarity in this day and age. At 42-years-old, he rarely engages with Hollywood, though he has been acting since he was eight. He became a star in 2000 playing an evil, scheming emperor Commodus in the blockbuster Gladiator. His status as a top-tier actor has solidified over the years through roles as Johnny Cash in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line, as a devout follower of an eerie cult in 2012’s The Master and as a frazzled, lonely writer who falls in love with his computer’s operating system in 2013’s Her. In an entertainment industry built upon artificial goodwill, he refuses to force himself into being too likable or relatable. But in his roles, he is as “endearing as any actor of his generation,” T Magazine writes.

In 2010, Phoenix made the little-seen I’m Still Here, directed and co-written by Casey Affleck, his then brother-in-law. The mockumentary looked into Phoenix’s “breakdown” in the fall of 2008 and into 2009. T Magazine calls it one of his finest performances, “an anarchic act of self-destruction, part prankster art piece, part scathing Hollywood satire — and one of only a handful of great films about celebrity.” It peaks during the scene about the infamous David Letterman interview, which made Phoenix more famous than he had ever been, and was mocked around the globe.

When asked about I’m Still Here, Phoenix says it was “terribly humiliating” to make, but he felt it was important to do, writes T Magazine. He told the magazine it allowed him to be bold instead of safe. Even after I’m Still Here was acknowledged as a stunt, Phoenix took two years off from acting. It seems to have rejuvenated him and now he is starring as Jesus in the upcoming Mary Magdalene, a re-telling of the New Testament.

So what is life like for an actor like Phoenix? T Magazine says it is much simpler than imagined. He lives in the Hollywood Hills with Rooney Mara. He is a vegan, has a dog, takes karate classes, and just like the rest of the world, watches documentaries on Netflix. Twelve years ago, he checked himself into rehab. Now, he still drinks when he flies, but fully gave up smoking marijuana.

In his interview, Phoenix comes off as self-deprecating and self-conscious, but Spike Jonze, who directed Phoenix in Her, has said the actor is the “most unpretentious person he has ever met.”

Read the full profile of Phoenix in T Magazine

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