Casey Affleck is debuting a documentary Sept. 6 at the Venice Film Festival, and it’s anything but complimentary of its star. “I’m Still Here” follows the so-called lost year of actor Joaquin Phoenix, 35. Since Phoenix’s retirement from acting following the 2008 movie “Two Lovers,” his strange behavior and conflicting reports have fueled speculation whether he’s sincere in trying to reinvent himself as a rap star or whether the entire effort is a “put-on,” as Phoenix himself reportedly told an unnamed source attributed in Entertainment Weekly.
“He said, ‘It’s a put-on. I’m going to pretend to have a meltdown and change careers, and Casey is going to film it,'” EW reported.
Baltimore audiences recently got a taste of celebrity dysfunction at the Rock the Bells concert when stars from the ’90s, including Wu Tang Clan, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Lauryn Hill, attempted to recapture the magic of careers past. While some acts, such as Wu Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest performed admirably, former Fugees star Lauryn Hill put on a typically unprofessional and unaccountable front by keeping audiences waiting over two hours, according to the Baltimore Sun. Giving only a 20-minute performance, the songstress, who once told fellow Fugees she wanted people to call her “Empress,” was reportedly hoarse-sounding and barely touched the surface of her breakthrough album of 10 years ago, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”
Possibly the defining example of a celebrity who intentionally burned down his career would be actor Andy Kaufman. Kaufman, to whom Phoenix has been compared in the context of possibly perpetrating a hoax, delighted in shocking audiences with unorthodox comedy routines designed to cause uncomfortable laughter. For example, in this YouTube video seen here, Kaufman seems to have ruined the sketch intentionally, but the entire sketch and most of its results were later reported to be a hoax, according to Michael Richards as seen on FirstAmenmendment.org. As Kaufman was so good at hoaxing his audiences, people initially believed that his battle with cancer and even his eventual death were all part of a hoax as well, as reported by BBC News.
It’s difficult to assess how “I’m Still Here” will affect Joaquin Phoenix’s career, as his implosion appears to be by design. The troubled star shelved acting and seemingly has no interest in reviving his flagging star power, preferring to focus instead on music. However, unlike Kaufman, Phoenix has never been seen as someone who enjoyed perpetuating hoaxes. For now, the actor will have to continue to remain sidelined unless, by some miracle, his music suddenly emerges on the scene in a serious way — an event that, judging by past performances, seems very unlikely to pass.
Josh Rottenberg, “Joaquin Phoenix’s rap career: An elaborate hoax?” Entertainment Weekly
IMDB.com, “Joaquin Phoenix”
John-John Williams IV “Concert review: Lauryn Hill, Tribe & Wu Tang @ Rock the Bells” Baltimore Sun
Tiffany McGee, “Whatever Happened to … Lauryn Hill?” People
dogonsey, “Friday’s Andy Kaufman Fight Michael Richards abc fridays” YouTube
FirstAmendmentCenter.org, “Michael Richards ‘Speaking Freely’ transcript”
BBC News, “Andy Kaufman – the Song and Dance Man”