Joaquin Phoenix: The Ego or the Artist at Play?

When I watched the interview with Joaquin Phoenix on David Letterman last night, I immediately flashed back to high school and college. There were these kids at my school, and the “richer” schools around town, who were so privileged and “cool” that their smugness and egos could light up a few counties. They didn’t have to answer to anyone, they didn’t “care” what people thought, their bratty and self-centered behavior mystified grown-ups and enchanted wannabes and social groupies. They hated the very system that elevated them and supported their dreams of becoming artists or musicians or wandering philosophers. They took risks because they knew their brand of risk came with the stability of parents with money, or a trust fund. I did not like these people because, to be blunt, they were assholes. They abandoned manners and their unique sense of judgement could make right wing conservatives look like Mother Theresa.

But then I caught myself. I started to remember other late night antics– Andy Kaufman, maybe? Naah… I think the interview had more to do with getting some cool footage for the Casey Affleck documentary about Joaquin’s new hip hop career. Seems there is always room for the requisite “Fuck you, Dave” or “This was me hitting rock bottom” scene in any self-respecting celebrity documentary. Perhaps Joaquin orchestrated the lame interview to provide that much-needed dramatic arch to any future true story docu-drama.

Or you know what? Maybe he was just high.



    • Yes, I thought that might be the case, too. Still not sure. Letterman reportedly was a very heavy drinker at one point, but quit and has talked about that over the years with guests on the show, and alluded to it at times. He does not say publicly if he is a recovering alcoholic. But my guess is that he has a certain reaction to substance abuse– either sensitivity or intolerance. I still think Joaquin was coherent because he tried to stop smiling a few times, which tells me it was an act. Who knows.

  1. I’m surprised ZZ Top weren’t mentioned, or at least Letterman
    saying something like, …ya got me undah pressure!

    I noticed those smiles too… you’re right, it might just
    have been a gag, youtube bait and viral marketing all rolled
    in one.

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