Two people close to Joaquin Phoenix tell EW that the actor’s recent attempt to reinvent himself as a rapper is not what it appears to be.
Ever since the actor announced he was ditching his career in movies to try to make it as a rap artist, speculation has flown wildly about what, exactly, the two-time Oscar nominee might be thinking. Following his widely panned three-song debut as a rapper at a Las Vegas nightclub on Jan. 16 — a shambling performance that concluded with the actor falling off the stage — two competing theories emerged: Either Phoenix is perpetrating an elaborate Andy Kaufman-style hoax (with an assist from his friend and brother-in-law Casey Affleck, who’s ostensibly shooting a documentary about his career transition), or he’s truly lost his marbles. The truth, it seems, is closer
to the former. “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,'” says one source who recently worked with Phoenix.
Though Phoenix’s interest in music is sincere (he earned Oscar and Grammy nominations for his turn as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and has directed several music videos), with this supposed career reboot he is evidently trying to both lampoon pompous actors and punk the media that covers them. Whatever his motivation or ultimate endgame, don’t expect him to break character anytime soon. “It’s an art project for him,” says a source. “He’s going full out. He probably has told his reps that he’s quit acting. Joaquin is very smart. This is very conscious. He has a huge degree of control.”
UPDATE: Phoenix’s publicist responds