SKIP (Austrian movie-magazine) - june 2000
Hollywood's new Wild Guy

For years Joaquin [say: Wakin] Phoenix was just the little brother of River Phoenix. But that's now definitely over. Peter Krobath (the interviewer) met an actor, who is very close to the big breakthrough.

SKIP: The Yards isn't an easy film. It took James Gray five years to find a productionfirm for his dark story. You were involved yourself 1 1/2 years in this project bevor the shooting could begin. How does an actor pass the time?

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: In the meantime I made four other movies. I didn't believe in the project anymore and thought that nobody could realize it, but I gave my word to James. He wanted me absolutely, because my face reminds him of the young Alain Delon. That naturally flattered me.

SKIP: I like the fight between you and Mark Wahlberg. You take it very wildly.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: I'm happy that you see it so too. We didn't want a nice Hollywood-boxingmatch, but a mercyless streetbattle. We sent the stunt- choreographer home immediately, he should stay out of the business and let us make. The fight should be brutal, realistic and passionate, that was important for the emotional level of the movie. We didn't give each other anything. James thought, that it was very brave of us, but in reality I was the only one who proofed to be brave- I mean have you seen the muscles of Mark Wahlberg once? The guy fights like a wrestler.

SKIP: When the whole thing couldn't be destinguished from a real fight, there must have been a real winner too.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: Mark won, but only because he cheated me. We spoke about some of the hits before, but he didn't go after the concept. He knew exactly what came towards him and so he ducked every time when I should hit him. But it doesn't matter, it even then was tough enough in this way. On the next day we were black and blue on the whole body and could hardly move. James had to shoot all scenes later again, because on this day we couldn't do any other than wag through the picture half- paralyzed.

SKIP: But was this realism necessary? For other actors it is enough, when they only do so as if they bashed each other into the face.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: James has another idea about making films. For him there are only two rules. First: Simple is not always easy. Second: I want to see your feelings. When you follow this rules, it is just logical, that you have to hit harder now and then at a fight.

KIP: In The Yards you are to be seen next to James Caan, Faye Dunaway and Ellen Burstyn. How are your feelings as a young actor when you are standing next to such screen- legends?

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: Sure they have big names and when I think of their old films I freeze in respect, but in front of the camera it is different. There we all were just professionals doing a job, actors being taken up by their roles, artists developing a story, which they can't tell alone. But it's true, I had the very first scene with James Caan, and he was so cool, that I only had one thought: I quit!