Casey Affleck admits his Joaquin Phoenix documentary wasn't real: Are you at all surprised?

im-still-here-pheonixWell, 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?

Read more:
Joaquin Phoenix’s rap career: An elaborate hoax?
Joaquin Phoenix doc: Is it a hoax? Hollywood mystified
Anyone still wondering whether Joaquin Phoenix is ‘Still Here’?
Joaquin Phoenix will return to ‘Late Show with David Letterman’

Comments (190 total) Add your comment
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  • Frank Anderson

    It actually makes me want to see the film now. While some may like to sit and watch the downfall of a once promising young talent, I would never watch that. I WILL, however, watch a film that chronicles an elaborate hoax which all in the media were quick to use to pontificate about Hollywood excess while profiting off of it at the same time. If they don’t somehow show proof that this was a hoax in the DVD then I will be suspect that this is a legit hoax.

    • Joe

      Exactly my thoughts, Frank. I had no interest in watching someone in bad shape, but I’d watch if it’s just a work of fiction.

      • NiggerDust

        His dead brother River was way more talented as an actor and musician.

      • wasabi

        So, HOTssss, is this real SPAM, or are you Joaquin Phoenix pretending to be an annoying spammer?

    • John

      Same here… I thought that Phoenix did go down. Now that its a hoax I probably would like to see this film. This film would now be more artistic knowing that its all make believe rather than showing someone’s bad luck.

    • Jonathan

      Excellent point. We have become an incredibly voyeuristic society — more interested in the “entertainment factor” from watching the train wreck. I don’t care one way or the other for these two “kids” but I am happy that the film is not filming the true demise of someone.

      • Liz

        I agree completely! I was mourning the loss of such a talent and so excited now that this may not be the last we’ll see of him :)

    • Brian C

      The only thing I’m upset about is that we missed two years of what could have been great JP performances in other movies while he sold this role. I hope it was worth it.

      • captain obvious

        I agree 100% this wasnt Crispin Glover! He was on top of his game and to do this for 2 years? somehow I doubt his agent was too happy. Although it could be argued that Robert Downey Jr. did this for years for real.

    • dallas

      This is an Andy Kaufman moment. Too cool.

      • Jennifer Phillips

        I agree. I think it was extremely clever. I’ve always loved Joaquin, he a tremendously talented actor. This only proves that fact even more. I’m getting a kick out of the idea that everybody bought into this elaborate joke. Good job guys, you’re complete originals.

    • Boopsie

      Ah, the old “hoax of a hoax” trick. That’s like, what they *want* you to think, man.

    • Bill

      Well said Frank! I agree.

    • Sandy

      wow! I am so happy to hear that he is not truly messed up as he has been portraying himself. I’ve always liked him as an actor and it was a shame to see a nice, talented person go to waste like that .. its funny though – now i really WANT to see the movie ..yayy!!!

  • bubbatwo420

    I’m just dissapointed that he came out and said this b/c I actually felt bad for Phoenix after watching I’m Still Here. Now it just seems like it was all an act to try and see what he could get away with. If I wanted something like that, i’d watch Borat which was much better.

  • Cari

    Honestly, I’m just glad. Joaquin Phoenix is a great actor and the whole thing was really sad. I hope he goes back to making real movies. I’ll watch.

    • AAR

      I agree. I kind of figured it was a hoax, but it’s a relief to hear it confirmed as such.

      • dave

        ure lying

      • marsh

        Oh gosh, I’m so shocked this was a fake. ….does this mean that the easter bunny isn’t real either?

      • Theodore

        wtf, the easter bunny isn’t real?

    • pop culture bystander

      Me too. I haven’t paid attention to his self-destruction more than what happened to pass before my eyes in the media, but his situation made me sad because I admire his work. I’m glad he was only playing a character.

  • Mr. Holloway

    No. Not at all surprised. For me, the giveaway wasn’t even the fact that Joaquin Phoenix tried to become a rapper (read that out loud again): it was seeing him earlier this year looking clean shaven and healthy – it told me his acting performance in this film was done.

    Unfortunately for Affleck, the sexual harrassments claims against him were apparently very much real.

  • Pisces228

    What is wrong with the message boards at EW?! I can’t tell you how many times recently I have tried to post messages (on different computers in different buildings) only to have my post disappear into cyberspace. EW please fix your boards!!!

    • Mr. Holloway

      I like to think all those lost posts are appearing in a Sideways version of Popwatch that we just can’t see.

      • Ms. Austen

        Agreed, in the end your 6 years worth of posts were all a waste of time as the sideways posts show they all just met up together in the afterlife…

  • The Jackal

    Newsflash: Blair Witch Project was not real either….who cares, as long as it entertains.

    • Jander

      DUDE! Spoiler warning?!

      • Katie

        DUDE! Were you living under a rock?!

      • Jeff

        DUDE! Your sarcasm detector’s broken?!

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        DUDE! WHERE’S MY CAR?!?!?

      • Saracen Riggins

        Nice one, Chaz :)

      • RHP

        DUDE looks like a lady!!!!

      • Jeff

        No, not quite RHP.

      • Niix Starkyller

        Chaz wins, dude.

  • Lisa

    Wow. My husband and I were just talking about this this morning after seeing Affleck in Jesse James.

    Personally – and I said this this morning, I think this is just a fascinating look at the interplay between reality and celebrity and our fascination with both. I mean who thinks reality tv is actually real? C’mon! I adore that the two of them were able to keep this going so long. I’m now on pins and needles to see a clean, relatively normal Phoenix rise from the ashes….

  • seth

    Come on, is there SERIOUSLY anyone who was actually fooled by any of this? I would think Phoenix’s “co-writers” credit on the film would have been the first clue for most film goers, even the dim ones. Hopefully Phoenix has shaken Affleck’s vanity project out of his system.

    • Jean Genie

      Let’s just say I chose not to be sucked in by this would-be phenom. That’s smart enough, I suppose.

  • dave

    Look at the people jumping on the banwagon. When he went on Letterman he fooled everyone. People are lying when they say he didn’t fool them.

    • Brad

      Ha, didn’t fool me, then again, I didn’t realize he was on a supposed downward spiral, shows how much I pay attention.

  • Jay

    Andy Kaufmann would be proud.

    • yogi

      No he wouldn’t. Because Andy would have never admitted it was a joke in the first place.

  • Jacob

    You know what I’m not surprised at? The fact that in his review, Gleiberman assumed it was real.

    Cause he’s a moron.

    • Amy

      Haha…I know! I had kind of assumed the whole thing was a hoax (I haven’t seen the movie), but then after reading the EW review, I was like… “Oh. Really?” And I was pretty sad because I had always liked JP. Now it’s kind of embarrassing that EW got it wrong in the magazine… :P

  • Dear

    “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?”

    That’s what art is: a commitment to something you don’t know will end successfully. If the film was overwhelmingly awesome, this question (“to what end?”) would be irrelevant.

    • JD

      well said

  • Marc

    I’m not the least bit surprised it’s a hoax … of course I woldn’t have been surprised to read that Phoneix was found dead floating naked in a hooker and coke filled hot tub this morning either … NEXT … Ashton and Demi the BEST PUNK’D EVER??????

  • Nick

    I don’t admire Joaquin Phoenix for this performance at all. I think he’s kind of an idiot, and it’s a shame because he used to be one of my favorite actors. I think this whole thing was very stupid and pointless.
    It could have still been good in the sense that it could have been a well-made documentary. But most of the reviews I have read say it was technically poorly made. So there’s really no reason to see this mess.

  • nina

    A terrible waste of time and money!!

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