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From Highs to Hoaxes: The Decade of Joaquin Phoenix

posted Mar 27, 2011, 11:09 AM by Golden Knight   [ updated Mar 29, 2011, 2:25 PM ]
Posted in Movies 
By Cody Wirosko


Since the year 2000 the film industry has been struck by one actor that has played pivotal and diverse roles, not only in dramatic features but also in controversial documentaries. Joaquin Phoenix emerged into the acting scene in the 1980’s and 1990’s in minor roles before his breakout role as Commodus in Ridley Scott’s Academy Award-winning film Gladiator. This earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor and sparked his career into one of the most followed, and now one of the most controversial of the decade.
He later stared in Signs, The Village, Hotel Rwanda, and as the hero firefighter in the 2004 film Ladder 49. He emerged into fame in 2005 through his most well known role as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, starring alongside Reese Witherspoon, recording the films soundtrack, earning a best actor nomination, and winning a Golden Globe for the role.
Perhaps all these roles have been surpassed by his recent actions. In 2008, Phoenix announced that he was retiring from the film industry at the age of 35 in the prime of a successful acting career to become a rapper. This decision formed into a social controversy when he appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on February 11, 2009. Sporting a new eccentric personality, Phoenix behaved incoherently and was mostly unresponsive to Letterman’s questions about his final feature film, Two Lovers. Since then, he has moved along with his rapping career, starring in Casey Affleck’s documentary I’m Still Here, which profiles Phoenix’s retirement and rap career.
A bombshell hit the industry when Phoenix announced that the documentary and his retirement was all a hoax, and the documentary I’m Still Here was actually a film profiling the effects of the media and modern society on the movie industry. Phoenix appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman once again last Friday, formally apologizing for his behavior on the show in 2008. He wanted publicity to spread, thereby making the film relevant. The cause for the film was Phoenix and Affleck’s interest in “reality” TV programs. Phoenix expressed the intrinsic idea that when people think something is real, it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it may seem. With this idea in mind, Phoenix came up with then notion to prove this fact by “retiring” from a prestigious acting career at age 35 and becoming a rapper. Though the movie nearly jeopardized Affleck’s career, his hoax proved Phoenix’s theory.
There is one inexorable fact from these recent occurrences in Phoenix’s career: Joaquin Phoenix has become one of the most pivotal and dynamic actors of the decade, and this profound actor will continue to play and imperative role in the movie industry for years to come.