So it might be week-old news now, but I was still surprised to hear two-time Oscar-nominated actor, Joaquin Phoenix, brother of dearly-missed Oscar-nominated actor River Phoenix, will be putting his acting career behind him. "I want to take this opportunity to give you an exclusive..." was how he initiated his red-carpet interview with E!'s "Extra" correspondent Jerry Penacoli at a charity event last Monday for the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps. The day was also the 34th birthday of Phoenix and four days before the 15th anniversary of the death of Phoenix's older thespian brother.
Phoenix said that "Two Lovers," his upcoming romantic drama with Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, will be his final onscreen role. His confession: "This will be my last performance as an actor. I'm not doing films anymore... I've been through that. I've done it...." While this divulgence surprised E!'s correspondent, Phoenix seemed perturbed, so he retorted, "I'm dead serious."
Here is the full interview:
Phoenix seemed emphatic that Casey Affleck, fellow actor and brother-in-law at his side the other night, will take up his reins: "It's Casey's time now."
I find the circumstances bizarre, actually. While Yahoo! Movies' Matt McDaniel reports "Phoenix is apparently giving up acting to pursue music, a passion of his since he learned to play guitar to play the role of Johnny Cash in 2005's 'Walk the Line,'" I think he has an ulterior motive for leaving the film industry. Call me crazy, but I find that the 15th anniversary of the death of his brother is a good motive. River Phoenix was set to become one of the greatest actors of his generation until a drug overdose cut his burgeoning life and career short in 1993. River Phoenix's career began in the mid-80s with a series of popular and critically-acclaimed roles in films such as "Stand By Me" and "Running on Empty." Joaquin Phoenix began his acting career in the 80s, too, with small, insignificant parts in television shows, but he did not score his big film break until 1995's "To Die For," directed by Gus Van Sant, who had also worked with River in 1991 in "My Own Private Idaho." Look at the timing - River dies in 1993, and Joaquin finds success in 1995. Also look at the connection - has Joaquin Phoenix's career been a sort of continuation of the career of River? Was his career a long tribute to River? Does Joaquin really live in his big brother's shadow without us realizing it? Granted, Joaquin is a great actor in his own right, but in McDaniel's article, he cites that Phoenix's career change might be partially inspired by the need to expel some demons. Perhaps his "career change" is a need to break away from the trade of his brother to find himself. Only Joaquin knows this answer, but for the future, perhaps his (to-be-released) music will provide us some insight.
"Two Lovers," Phoenix's final film, premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival to mostly positive reviews and is scheduled for release on February 13th, 2009. I suppose if you have to go out, best to go out with a bang, eh?