Last week, the multiple Oscar-nominated actor (now turned rapper????) Joaquin Phoenix made an appearance on The David Letterman Show that should go down in broadcast infamy as one of the worst (or best—depending on your point of view) interviews ever captured on television. The very hirsute and nearly unrecognizable Phoenix was presumably on the late-night gabfest to plug his just-opened film, Two Lovers, co-starring Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and directed by James Gray (who had directed Phoenix in two other films, among them, We Own the Night).
Looking sullen and stoned, his eyes obscured by shades and his voice (when he deigned to offer Letterman more than monosyllabic replies) an inaudible croak, Phoenix made a sorry spectacle of himself; he also let down the members of the Two Lovers team that worked so hard on the film. (And yes, I’ll make a confession: I do know someone who worked on this project closely with the director so I have an extra-added emotional annoyance here).
Rumors/stories are afoot that Phoenix’s bff and brother-in-law Casey Affleck is currently filming a “mockumentary” documenting Phoenix’s dubious career trajectory from film actor to inept rap singer and that everything Phoenix is doing, including his stint on Letterman, is a put-up job, reminiscent of the shtick the late comedian Andy Kaufman used to do a generation ago. But that’s irrelevant because he had a film to promote and judging by his appearance on the late night talk show, he didn’t do that.
Watching the Phoenix debacle unfold on TV made me wonder the following: Who is his publicist? How can he or she allow Phoenix in his current mental and physical condition (whether it’s concocted or not) to get on national TV looking and behaving like that? Seriously, if your client was Phoenix, would you allow him to get on a major broadcast outlet looking like the Unabomber? Are some entertainment/celebrity publicists so blinded by fame they forget their responsibilities and act like fawning sycophants, yessing these obviously troubled personalities to death, even if that entails the ruination of a career or a film? Honestly, I’m baffled as to HOW any true publicist could have allowed Phoenix to get on the Letterman show when he or she knew his prior state and how he would most likely behave. What do you think?
By Iris Dorbian