Entertainment Tonight Online - May 2000
JOAQUIN PHOENIX talks about his grand new production, RUSSELL CROWE, and what it was like to be a gladiator

What is your reaction to the movie?

It was incredible. There is so much that was done in postproduction with C.G.I. and the effects. I just didn't really know what to expect. There were scenes that I did against a green screen and [RIDLEY SCOTT, the director] would give me a rundown of what would be there, either looking over Rome or a sunrise or something. And suddenly it is there on film and it is just extraordinary. The look of this film is beautiful, the costumes are incredible and the production design, everything... I was pleasantly surprised.

I thought it was phenomenal. It really does blow you away. And it is so intense. What kind of research did you do for this?

A lot of reading on the period and on the character -- pouring over photographs. I just assaulted CONNIE NIELSEN, who was our historical advisor on the project, in addition to her being a great actress. And then you just combine that information with your own take on the character.

The movie is fairlygraphic. Do you think it is anaccurate reflection of what was really going on in Rome?

Absolutely. From the reading that I did, it is absolutely. I think it is even toned down a bit. The lunch break in the coliseum -- they would just file in 50 people and let the lions go and that was
just the lunch break entertainment, not even the gladiatorial battles. So I think if anything that they have toned it down a bit.

Is it likely that we would see a come back of gladiator games, do you think?

I hope not.

How did you train, in terms of the sword fights and stuff like that? What kind of training was involved in that?

The weeks leading up to the fight, we would just go over the routine. I had a really great choreographer and we designedthis fight in a few segments, first with the sword and then the knife and then the fistfight. We would just go overthose routines for a few weeks leading up to the fight.

Did your costumes help give you that royal feeling?

Everything plays a part. The costumes and the sets--everything was so grand. It sort of forces a posture on you because the armor is stiff and all of that plays a part in helping you feel the character.

What was the toughest part of the production for you?

I don't know really. It was pretty good. I prefer it when it's difficult.You feel like you are really working. We would just go over the script everyday with Ridley in between shots and just tweak dialogue and moments. It was difficult but I think it all paid off.

What was it like working with Ridley Scott?

He's brilliant. I have never worked with anyone quite like him. I have learned so much. He's incredibly patient and tolerant. He just has such a brilliant eye and attention to detail and somehow manages to balance the larger aspects of the film visually and the more human story, giving each story his equal amount of attention.

What is it that makes Commodus click?

I don't know. I have no idea.


That was my "I don't know."

What is RUSSELL [CROWE] like to work with?

Fantastic. He is a brilliant actor. Inthisfilm--I mean I love all the films I have seen him in--but I just think he is extraordinary in this. He is such a giving person, and also as an actor. He's just a person who throws parties and would take you sailing. He just kind of took me under his wing and really took care of me, because I was a bit nervous when we started.


The sheer size of it. I never really worked on a picture like this. And when I first arrived, I went to the camp in Germany and I was driving up the road. I thought, "Oh my God! What have I gotten myself into?" There are just many extras and crew. It was a big production.

After you have had this kind of experience with big productions, would you like to go back and forth?

I like both. I think that's what a deal for an actor is, different environments and different films that require something unique and special. I enjoy both.

What is up next for you?

A film called 'The Yards,' a family drama set in Queens, with JAMES CAAN, FAYE DUNAWAY, MARK WAHLBERG, CHARLIZE THERON and ELLEN BURSTYN. Then I have a film called 'Quills' with GEOFFREY RUSH, KATE WINSLET and MICHAEL CAINE, directed by PHIL KAUFMAN. And I am in pre-production for a film with JEFF GOLDBLUM that is about "out of the deck" actors in Hollywood.

You are a busy guy.

I just can't stop!