RoughCut - Oct 98
Soaring Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix has starred in two recently released films, oddly enough, both co-star Vince Vaughn. Phoenix explains the pains an actor will experience in order to develop a  character's role. Great actors, such as James Caan and  Faye Dunaway, have helped influence Phoenix as well as great directors Joseph Ruben and Oliver Stone. Phoenix usually helps develop each of his on-screen characters, and his upcoming movies are no different. 

How did you get into the frame of mind for someone who's about to die and how difficult was that for you in Return to Paradise?

Um, well, it starts with the character. When you have something that starts off, you know, the very opposite, someone's that very pure. When I saw what was happening to him and what was wrong with him, it's very powerful. So, I just obviously had to think about that. You know, an innocent boy. It was heartbreaking, and just discussing it, you become totally unconscious and just emotionless. 

You and Vince Vaughn are also starring in Clay Pigeons. How did that come about? 

I asked what Joseph Ruben was doing next and he said this film, which was essentially amazing. And I said I'd love to read the script, but nothing ever came of it. I'm not sure why, and then a few months later my agent sent me this script. I read it and found out that this was something Vince was doing. Ruben didn't know that we had worked together. He didn't know we were friends at all. And I said, "I just finished a film with him." And he said, "Oh, really? Do you like each other?" I said, "Yeah, he's a good guy." So, Vince called me a couple of days later and said, "I can't believe this, you're doing this movie." He didn't really know what was happening. 

Describe working on Clay Pigeons.

Well, it was a great cast. I think Vince (Vaughn) is a blast -- very charming, very funny. He was such a sweetie. Um, so we really have this little family. You always kind of have these families when you're working, but this was a low-budget film shooting in a really small town in Utah, and we're all staying at the same motel, so me, and Janeane (Garofalo), we're neighbors, and we're just kind of leaving the door open, and everybody walks around. So, there's really a tight group and David Dobkin directed it, [he's] just one of the sweetest guys. 

Did you do that film quickly?

It's like, boom, boom, boom. I don't know how we did it. But you just plow through [it]. It really worked. 

The scene where you're trying to talk your way out of searching the house, there was a bit of attraction between you and Janeane.

There's a little bit of that, but a little bit further, for my character, it's almost as if God was there and I just don't care. I'm f---ing through, go ahead, go through my life. So, we had a thing, I don't even know if it's in there now, is it in there where I go, "Go back to your sports game"? And I say baseball, she says, "Baseball sucks." Janeane was always coming and going. There was just supposed to be a whisper of attraction, as time goes by. 

Did you enjoy working with Oliver Stone in U Turn?

Oh, that was great.... Yeah, it's always fun to do really intense  characters like that. I love creating them, coming up with the hairstyle, the TNT... I don't know, when I read the script, I just thought, "That's the s--t." These kids in these small towns, these fads that just roll over them. Like, five years pass and they still hang on to them. So, I thought it was really great if he shaves his name, he thinks he's really notorious. For a week, it's just kind of a blast to come in there and you're just supposed to come in and do your piece and that's it. And I like that feeling. I like going right into it. 

Does he have a strong way of directing? Did he let you do what you want?

Um, no, he really just kind of let me do what I wanted. We did a lot of work with handheld cameras, which is very interesting, because it's never your close-up or anyone else's close-up. The camera is always moving back and forth, so it's always on and I found myself sort of exhausted. Some of those scenes were hot, I was wearing this ridiculous outfit. What a weird gig. 

Who co-stars with you besides James Caan in the upcoming movie, The Yards? 

Um, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Faye Dunaway... 

Describe acting alongside James Caan. 

Well, we caught James Caan mixing his drink. This is a drink noir. I'm nuts about him. He's the most fantastic actor. I mean, brilliant. He's sitting in the room with this genius and it's amazing. It's amazing the circus this guy [creates]. They all wanted to [be around him], so it's fantastic. And Faye (Dunaway), we got to work [together] one day, and she's magnificent. She's just brilliant. It's really nice to work with an actress in such a scene because we have me, and Charlize and Mark, and we have done a certain amount of filming and then James is the round-upper.