Phoenix does Letterman again, minus the beard

Sep 23, 2010
Sophie Taylor

Joaquin Phoenix back on US talk show to apologise for spoof turn in 2009

Actor Joaquin Phoenix returned to David Letterman's couch last night, 18 months after his unforgettable, bearded, mumbling appearance on the late night talk show, when he apparently suffered a breakdown. Last night, clean-shaven and smiling, the actor confirmed the whole thing had been a hoax.

Phoenix asked Letterman's forgiveness, and the two men claimed the host had no idea he was being pranked and there was no script. "I hope I didn't offend you in any way," said a deferential Phoenix.

Earlier this month, Casey Affleck admitted his 'documentary' charting his brother-in-law Phoenix's descent into drug-addled egomania was a spoof. The announcement he was quitting acting, the attempt to start a hip hop career and the toe-curling Letterman interview: all were faked for I'm Still Here.

Letterman set the scene: "A year and a half ago you come out and honestly it's like you slipped and hit your head in the tub. What was the idea?"

Phoenix said he and Affleck had cooked up the concept together after wondering why audiences were willing to accept 'reality' TV shows as truthful when the people featured were obviously acting – and badly.

"The acting is terrible," said Phoenix. "I thought I could handle that." He continued: "We'd hoped to come on a talk show, and I was looking for a beat-down, and I got one."

Letterman said he’d enjoyed taking swipes at Phoenix in 2009 as he sat, uncommunicative and surly, telling the actor: “It was so much fun. It was batting practice.”

One of Letterman's own staff claimed this month that the talk show king had been in on the joke, and was playing along with Phoenix. Letterman offered evidence that this wasn't the case last night.

He pointed out that at the end of the 2009 interview, Phoenix can be seen suddenly coming out of character, taking off his sunglasses and shaking Letterman's hand enthusiastically as the audience applauds. He speaks to the host, but we can't hear what is said.

"Casey was very angry with me when I did that," said Phoenix, "but I was eager to thank you for the opportunity... And I was really eager to get off the show."


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