Well, now we finally have our answer, and, after all the build-up, it’s frankly kind of anticlimactic. In an interview with the New York Times, Casey Affleck has admitted that his documentary, I’m Still Here, which chronicles Joaquin Phoenix’s apparent drug-fueled meltdown and misbegotten attempt to reinvent himself as a rapper, was almost entirely made up. (For the record, we told you the same thing way back in 2009, when sources told EW that Phoenix’s antics were “a put-on.”) “I never intended to trick anybody,” Affleck says, explaining that the movie is an exercise in “gonzo filmmaking,” intentionally blurring the line between what is real and what is not, and not merely a hoax or a stunt. Affleck calls Phoenix’s depiction of his own supposed disintegration in the film “the performance of his career,” and, indeed, you can’t help but admire (if that’s the right word) the total commitment it took for Phoenix to turn himself into a bizarre, bloated, bearded celebrity car wreck for nearly two years. But you also have to ask: To what end? The film has received mixed reviews, and, in the end, many critics and moviegoers are unlikely to appreciate the subtleties of Affleck and Phoenix’s artistic intentions. They’ll just feel duped. As Roger Ebert wrote in his generally positive review of I’m Still Here, “If this film turns out to still be part of an elaborate hoax, I’m going to be seriously pissed.” UPDATE: As for Phoenix’s thoughts on the matter? Well, turns out we’ll have to wait to find out his side of the story — the actor’s rep told EW he’s not talking until his Sept. 22 appearance on Late Show with David Letterman.
What about you, PopWatchers? Are you genuinely surprised by Affleck’s admission? Or, if you saw it coming a mile away, what was the giveaway: Phoenix’s laughable attempts at rapping? His too-weird-to-be-true appearance on David Letterman’s couch (which Affleck insists Letterman wasn’t in on)? If you saw the movie, does this news make you like it more or less? And now that this whole strange mystery has been solved, how does it change your image of Joaquin Phoenix?