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Unraveling the mystery of Joaquin Phoenix
The movie star grew a beard and quit acting to become a rapper. But was it all a stunt for a mockumentary?
Joaquin Phoenix.
Joaquin Phoenix.
Corbis
A

fter an Oscar nomination for his 2005 role in Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix had Hollywood at his command. But instead of building on his film career, Phoenix dropped out early last year, growing a bushy beard and giving a series of monosyllabic TV interviews saying he was quitting acting to become a hip-hop musician. Rumors followed that his eccentric ways were a put on — part of a mockumentary about fame directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck. Now that Affleck has reportedly begun shopping around his movie, I'm Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix, is it safe to say that Phoenix's bizarre behavior was just an act? (Watch Phoenix's interview with David Letterman)

Even people who've seen the movie aren't sure: Those who've seen the film are "even more mystified by Phoenix’s behavior" than before, says John Horn in the Los Angeles Times. He "comes off unsympathecially," snorting cocaine, ordering call girls, and abusing his assistants. At one "stomach-turning" point, someone even defecates on him while he's asleep. The only thing previewers agreed on was "they'd never seen anything like it."
"Joaquin Phoenix documentary: even buyers aren't sure if it's a prank" 

We knew this was a prank. But is it any good? Come on — nobody "really believed" Joaquin Phoenix was forsaking movies, says Russ Fischer at Slash Film, to become "a really terrible rapper." But let's hope "these guys had more of a plan than 'let's screw around and film it.'" If they touch on something deeper, such as "the nature and difficulty of satire," then "I'm ready to see more."
"Casey Affleck's mockumentary starring Joaquin Phoenix finished, shown to buyers"

Phoenix may be acting, but he's still nuts: This movie will show both that Joaquin Phoenix "was clearly goofing," says Drew Magary on NBC, and that he's a "complete nutjob anyway." Think about it — if you dream up an "unfunny" prank this elaborate, and commit career suicide along the way, doesn't that suggest "you probably aren't of sound mind"?
"Joaquin Phoenix's mockumentary finished, career suicide only beginning"

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