Affleck Confesses All

Apparently freaked or at least alarmed by recent negative reactions to I’m Still Here, his Joaquin Phoenix meltdown documentary, Casey Affleck has dropped the pose and confessed to N.Y. Times reporter Michael Cieply that “almost every bit of” I’m Still Here is pretend, put-on theatre.

To this I say bullshit. I believe that some or much of the doc may have been staged and performed, okay, but I’m convinced that it was inspired by genuine career despair on Phoenix’s part, and that a sizable portion of it came straight from his real heart, head and gut.

What happened, I strongly suspect, is that after I’m Still Here was shown at the Toronto Film Festival Affleck and Phoenix both realized they’d over-played their hand by persuading the media that Phoenix is an even bigger egoistic fool than anyone had suspected or realized, and that the only way to save Phoenix from a life of depression and skid-row dereliction is to claim it was entirely made up. Think about it — how could Cieply claim or prove otherwise? Once you start down the rabbit hole there are no guideposts, no rules…nothing but free-form improv.

I believe Affleck is doing what he can to save his brother-in-law from ruination. Because Phoenix has no future without a complete renunciation of the whole “act.” Everyone on the planet has been convinced there is no bigger asshole around. Right now Phoenix would have trouble getting hired as an assistant at Kinko’s.

“It’s a terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career,” Affleck tells Cieply in a story that went up this afternoon.

Affleck “was speaking of Mr. Phoenix’s two-year portrayal of himself — on screen and off — as a bearded, drug-addled aspiring rap star, who, as Affleck tells it, put his professional life on the line to star in a bit of ‘gonzo filmmaking’ modeled on the reality-bending journalism of Hunter S. Thompson.

“The reviews were so angry,” said Mr. Affleck, who attributed much of the hostility to his own long silence about a film that left more than a few viewers wondering what was real — The drugs? The hookers? The childhood home-movie sequences in the beginning? — and what was not.

Virtually none of it was real,” Cieply writes. “Not even the opening shots, supposedly of Mr. Phoenix and his siblings swimming in a water hole in Panama. That, Mr. Affleck said, was actually shot in Hawaii with actors, then run back and forth on top of an old videocassette recording of Paris, Texas to degrade the images.

“I never intended to trick anybody,” said Mr. Affleck, an intense 35-year-old who spoke over a meat-free, cheese-free vegetable sandwich on Thursday. “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.”

Wait….”a meat-free, cheese-free vegetable sandwich“? What has that got to do with anything? To me, this sentence suggests that Cieply’s story itself is a put-on. You know what? I’m getting sick of this. I say trust no human being entirely. You know who I trust? My cats. Otherwise believe none of what you read or hear and only half of what you see.

Phoenix turned himself into a bloated, pot-bellied pig wasn’t theatre — he clearly did that.

And I was so appalled and amazed by the scene in which Phoenix’s assistant poops on his boss’s face that I’m going to deliberately defy N.Y. Times-sanctioned “reality” and continue to believe it really “happened.”

  • DiscoNap

    what a pussy

  • googs

    “a sizable portion of it came straight from his real heart, head and gut.”

    Of course. All good performances do. I’m sure Phoenix was going through something but he’s clearly in performance mode in this.

  • googs

    Also, watch Phoenix on Letterman in a few days. He’ll be clean cut, sharp and saying the same thing.

  • zombiestrike

    How long before the Catfish guys have to do the same thing? And does this mean The Last Exorcism is the most honest docufakery this season?

    I love the sandwich line.

  • York “Budd” Durden

    Seems that they weren’t scrupulous enough in determining how far they could go with scenes that might be seen as staged, versus scenes with a sense of verisimilitude. How fortuitous the camera’s presence to record him dumped upon, the Central Park meltdown, etc.

    [DeeZee] I liked it better when it was called The Tony Clifton Story [/DeeZee]

  • Chris Willman

    “Phoenix turned himself into a bloated, pot-bellied pig wasn’t theatre — he clearly did that.”

    He “did that,” but it’s still “theater,” just as much as it was when DeNiro did it for Scorsese.

    There’s no way to say this without insulting a lot of intelligent people, but this whole thing has been such a gullibility test, and it was shocking to see people like Ebert fail (though he at least had the sense to recant via Twitter while he still had the chance). For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, the level of satire is broad… really broad… a lot of the time. Forget the defecation scene. Just take the scene where Phoenix rails against “There’s Something About Mary” to Ben Stiller. If anything, he was tipping his hand way too much in a bit like that.

    It’s kind of sad they had to own up to it, at least before most people have had a chance to see it, but I doubt they expected so many people to take it seriously, much less be predicting the immediate cessation of Phoenix’s career.

    I’ve spent time interviewing Phoenix and know his attitudes are completely the opposite of everything he spews in the film, so it was more obvious to me than it would be to most. But I have a hard time imagining I could have bought a moment of this even without having met him.

    To my mind, this should be Jeff’s kind of comedy… it is consistently amusing and straight-faced mirthful without almost ever going for the laugh-out-loud moment.

  • Abbey Normal

    Willman @6: I actually thought the title itself was a dead giveaway. C’mon…”I’m Not Here”? As in, “in case you’re wondering, this is not me…just a part I’m playing”?

    Seems pretty clear. And really, any movie where a man shits on another man’s face can only be comedy. Or fetish porn.

  • Carl Kolchak

    Sorry, Jeff, but I believe that your stated ideas about this film are as much of a put on as the film. There’s no way you believe that this is in any way real.

  • LexG

    Willman: GOOD POST.

    Seriously, Affleck and Phoenix tip their hand so persistently and transparently, I’m a little surprised at Jeff’s reaction. The thing has a damn SCREENPLAY credit (to Phoenix and Affleck), is entirely to studied cinematically to be on-the-fly, and thematically shares tons of real estate with Van Sant’s GERRY, which Affleck also co-wrote.

    Even the inital camcorder Hawaii footage I wasn’t sure of– did they have TIME STAMPS back in “1981” on consumer-grade VHS camcorders?

    The Stiller scene is pretty blatant, but if anything gives the whole project away, place some of the blame on P-Diddy’s atrocious acting; He’s clearly in on the joke and playing a part– the SAME PART he played in Get Him to the Greek.

    Even the best, giddiest bits like Phoenix cutting up lines while doing his happy dance, or berating his cipher-like hanger-on for being BITLESS (truly an awesome rant) are pretty clearly theater.

    Entertaining theater, but I barely believed a second of what I was seeing, the constant subtextual, scripted thematics (wholly of a piece with Affleck and Phoenix’s other work behind and in front of the camera) as well as credits that make explicitly clear there’s a lot of performance going on– again, it’s fun to watch but totally “just a movie.”

    And others have said it, but NO WAY a mean old bastard like Letterman would’ve entertained an actual, zoned-out star eating up dead air space as long as he indulged Phoenix if it weren’t 100% a bit.

  • Kakihara

    I thought this thread was going to be about Affleck’s alleged sexual harassment settlement. Oh, well.

  • Mr. F.

    Dear Jeff: just to clear things up: “Borat” is actually an act. He’s a character played (very well) by an actor. Much like Joaquin Phoenix in I’M STILL HERE.

    I suspect you know this, and *I’m* the sucker. Oh well.

  • squealy

    Willman @6: I actually thought the title itself was a dead giveaway. C’mon…”I’m Not Here”? As in, “in case you’re wondering, this is not me…just a part I’m playing”?

    …except the film is called “I’m Still Here.”

  • iamjoe

    Worst kept secret ever. And for something that has not benefitted for the huge amount of time between when we saw Phoenix wanking around in public in the news, when we might have cared because of the spectacle, and now when ww really don’t give a crap. If Oliver Stone can shoot W in the spring and have it released in September, Affleck’s film would have benefitted from a similar turnaround.

  • derek

    What the hell’s happened to the human race? If you can’t trust Joaquin Phoenix or Casey Affleck, who can you trust?

  • Ponderer

    “You know who I trust? My cats.”

    If you mean, “I trust my cats to look over their self-interest and eat my corpse when I die in a tiny apartment in Paris,” yes, I believe your cats can be trusted.

    To look after their own brutal self-interest.

  • eoguy

    —-“I never intended to trick anybody,” said Mr. Affleck, an intense 35-year-old who spoke over a meat-free, cheese-free vegetable sandwich on Thursday. “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.”—-

    On that I call bullshit because at the premiere of the movie at TIFF Cameron Bailey read out an email from Affleck that was intentionally ambiguous and refused to answer any questions or provide any light on the concept. In fact, in it, he told the audience that everything would become clear soon.

  • fences

    Jeff– you are 100% right. I can’t believe everyone is falling for this. Some of the antics may be staged by the emotional free fall and substance abuse that sponsored them is not fake. So, were the sex harassment suits fake? Was the two years of not working fake. Deniro gained weight, lost it and made there other pictures in the time the Joaquin has made this, please don’t compare them.

    this is a large scale equivalent to someone insulting their wife or boss and then saying”Whoa. Hey, I was just kidding!” Bullshit.

  • lawnorder

    I laugh at you guys suggesting Phoenix’s career is over or even slightly damaged. I happen to know that’s he’s receiving more offers than ever to star in major productions (studio and independent) – and he’s still being incredibly choosey. There are so few quality leading men in the business that he’s still a major get for any filmmaker – and they know he’ll deliver the goods performance wise. Say whatever you want about the guy’s flakiness, but he’s a major fucking talent. He met on a friend’s project a couple of weeks back, and even though he liked it a lot, he wouldn’t commit. The word is that he’s just not ready to get back to acting. And that’s of his choosing, not because he’s on anyone’s shit list.

  • Noah Cross

    “Everyone on the planet has been convinced there is no bigger asshole around.”

    It is a minority of the world’s population that could pick out Joaquin Phoenix out in a line-up, let alone has yet heard of this film.

  • DiscoNap

    Noah makes an excellent point. The closest 99% of Americans will ever get to seeing this movie is looking at the poster and saying “Is that the kid who played Johnny Cash? He looks like a homeless person.” In five years it will be “Never did see that movie where the guy from Gladiator played a homeless guy.” I don’t imagine his image will suffer much one way or the other.

  • Edward Havens

    Who the hell tapes over a VHS cassette of Paris,Texas anyway? Just because there’s a good DVD doesn’t mean squat! True art was destroyed for the making of this POS that 99.8% of Americans do not give a flying crap about. Leaf should have quit acting after Russkies.

  • FloridaChas

    Neflix category for this: Spoofs and Satire, Mockumentaries.

  • Eloi Wrath

    A clean-shaven Phoenix did a fairly earnest PETA appeal during the time he was supposedly mental. He wasn’t exactly keeping it totally hidden.

  • Eloi Wrath

    Is this the first time since about 1998 that Ben Affleck’s stock is higher than either Casey’s or Matt Damon’s?

  • BaxterPeanut

    Reminds me of the Sasha Baron Cohen flicks. You knew they were all staged and fake, but it was still interesting to try and spot the “staged” shit in Borat and moreso in Bruno (much more staged). It was acting in the real world and ultimately these movies come out looking like a mess of a tripped-out thought or idea.

    Of course, I’m not sure. As Jeff points out – “You know what? I’m getting sick of this. I say trust no human being entirely….believe none of what you read or hear and only half of what you see.” So I’m figuring out how much of this post to really believe!!

  • Guy who likes Glosette Raisins

    Didn’t most people think the gig was up when, at the end of the Letterman interview, Phoenix took off his sunglasses and shook Dave’s hand?

  • Floyd Thursby

    The Times always describes what interviewees are eating in restaurant-set interviews. Doing so is mandated in the Times interview manual.

  • JapAdapters

    And in other news professional wrestling isn’t a legitimate athletic competition.

    Ben’s stock has been higher than Casey’s pretty much every year except 2007, no?

  • Smedley

    Glosette – I noticed that too. They reran that interview last night. I hadn’t noticed the first time I saw it how he VERY professionally stood up, turned around, removed his glasses, looked Letterman in the eye and shook his hand LIKE A MAN.

  • gogocrank10

    Also, if memory serves, in the original Letterman interview, Letterman gets off some great quip and you can see Phoenix struggling to suppress a smile, like the straight man in a Will Ferrell “SNL’ skit.

  • berg

    when the lights come up in the bedroom during the poop scene there’s no marks or stains on the white bed sheets or pillows …. the hecklers at the Miami club show that engage in a scuffle are credited in the cast during the credit roll …. “A cat in a body cast is not funny” … “It was a dog”

  • nbxzero


    I believe that’s what originally got everyone saying the whole rapping hobo routine was fake.