Rap, Drugs, And Beards: Joaquin Phoenix Hoax
The Joaquin Phoenix hoax involved actor Joaquin Phoenix spending nearly two years acting like he was losing his mind. Usually dapper and handsome, Phoenix grew a full beard, long hair and donned dark sunglasses everywhere. He also spoke of retiring from acting to pursue a rap career. The entire act was eventually revealed to be performance art for a film entitled "I'm Still Here" directed by Phoenix's brother-in-law, Casey Affleck.
First Signs of Weirdness. The first clues that something was strange about Phoenix started to appear during the latter part of 2008 when he suddenly announced that he was retiring from acting. Affleck, who is the brother of actor and director Ben Affleck, was quick to reassure the public that Phoenix's decision was not a hoax. Shortly afterward, Affleck revealed that he was working on a documentary about Phoenix's entry into the hip-hop industry. At his first live rap concert, Phoenix fell off the stage and performed horribly.
Public Speculation. As Phoenix's behavior got weirder, some movie and Web reporters began wondering if he was going insane. Others speculated that he was abusing drugs, an especially dire prediction since Phoenix's older brother River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in the early 1990's. The height of the public's concern was expressed after Phoenix appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman." During the interview, he wore his by-then signature black sunglasses, he looked unkempt and he could not seem to carry on a conversation. Even Letterman, a veteran comedian and talk show host, was perplexed, commenting, "Joaquin, I'm sorry you couldn't be here tonight."
The Finished Documentary In the spring of 2010, the finished documentary entitled "I'm Still Here" was completed. It was released a few months later to less than stellar reviews. By the time the film premiered, though, Affleck had already spilled the beans about the movie's premise. In an interview, Affleck admitted that the entire spectacle was a hoax. In the director's view, though, the effort amounted to performance art. He said, "For me, this film was Dante's Inferno...he just goes farther and farther into this more hideous place." Audiences didn't seem interested, though, and the movie grossed just $96,658 in its debut weekend.