David Letterman Interview (fall 2000)

DAVE: Our first guest is a talented actor, he's starring in a new motion picture called "The Yards", it opens on Friday. Ladies and gentleman, please say hello to the always engaging Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin!! *comes up waving, pulls up trousers to reveal his Nike sneakers*

JOAQUIN: Is that OK, do they look alright?

DAVE: What have you got going on?

JOAQUIN: I don't know, do they look weird to you? Or...

DAVE: No, you look great. That's a great look.

JOAQUIN: It's OK, really? It's kind of a casual shoe thing...

DAVE: Is that a Nike suit as well?

JOAQUIN: No, it's especially... I don't know... O my God. My mom is gonna give me a hard time about the sneakers. Don't you.

DAVE: I'm sorry. How have you been?

JOAQUIN: Pretty good, pretty good. How are you?

DAVE: I'm fine. How was your summer, what did you do? What does a guy like you do during the summer? A lot of cool stuff? Did you work? What did you do?

JOAQUIN: Oh man, my middle name is summer. O yeah, I did uhm *thinks hard - laughter from the audience* I'm trying to think about what I did.

DAVE: Did you go on vacation, did you travel?

JOAQUIN: I didn't really do anything. I didn't have much of a summer. You know what, do you like rollercoasters?

DAVE: I love rollercoasters.

JOAQUIN: No you don't.

DAVE: I do, they're just the greatest, are you kidding me?

JOAQUIN: I don't...
DAVE: You don't like them.

JOAQUIN: No, I don't know why exactly I don't like them. But I went to an amusement park recently.

DAVE: Where did you go?

JOAQUIN: Magic Mountain.

DAVE: In Valencia, California.

JOAQUIN: Wow, that's really good. I knew it was in California, I just... That's really good, that's impressive. I was there and I don't even know where...

DAVE: That's like, they've got all of the great, scary, brandnew, state of the art rides.

JOAQUIN: Yeah, they've got like Scroopy Doopy's Hell ride. So I don't know why you wanna go on that. It's...

DAVE: Well, I don't know what that is exactly.

JOAQUIN: Well, I don't know either because I closed my eyes. I clutched the person next to me and just wept like a coward and stuff. It's verry odd thing and I remember kind of tumbling and spinning around in blackness and it was strange. I don't know why I did that.

DAVE: It's all about G-forces and zero gravity.

JOAQUIN: It's supposed to be exciting and fun, right?

DAVE: O yeah.

JOAQUIN: I cried though. I mean, I don't think that's the idea you know, literally. And my friends they called me a coward and they pushed me and they taunt, like it's a funny thing. But it wasn't cool for me. I said, "guys that's not cool."

DAVE: No, it's not cool at all.

JOAQUIN: I wanted to have one... *laughter from audience* No, this is a true story, it's true. So I did the water slide stuff, which I thought was really fun. And refreshing as well. *Laughter from audience - Takes a sip of water* I'm sorry...

DAVE: Now when you do this, do you like make a day of it, do you go in the evening?

JOAQUIN: I did, I tried to do this special mission where I went for 2 hours late at night. I figured there'd be no lines. So I would go to like Scroopy Doopy's Hell ride whatever and then try and run over to the next thing. So I got like a lot of exercise, I think more than I've ever gotten in my life. I just ran from roller coaster to roller coaster.

DAVE: So the idea is in that 2 hour period to be constantly dizzy?

JOAQUIN: Exactly, which is why it's kind of like a waste of time and money to tell you the truth. It is! You can do it at home. I can do it here. I can roll around and close my eyes *actually does that* and it's essentially the same thing! It does that weird thing with your stomach.

DAVE: I know. But the best moment is when you're going up and you're going up and you get the time to think about it and suddenly just as you think "I bet this is not gonna be so..." And then BENG!!
*Joaquin pretends his ear is aching from Dave's outburst*

DAVE: I'm sorry

JOAQUIN: Yeah, it's a big...

DAVE: The world drops out from under you.

JOAQUIN: Well, you should go with me sometime, we should go together.


JOAQUIN: Because I'm scared, you could hold my hand, you can help me.

DAVE: I don't want to go.

JOAQUIN: You can help me...

DAVE: I can't go, I'm too old for that crap.

JOAQUIN: No you're not. You can't say crap on tv!

DAVE: Hey hey, ha ha, congratulations, happy birthday, you've got a birthday coming up. You're gonna be the birthday boy.

JOAQUIN: That's right.

DAVE: Next week, isn't it?

JOAQUIN: Uhm... I think.

DAVE: How old are you gonna be?

JOAQUIN: Where's my mom? She knows all this information.

DAVE: Your mom is here?

JOAQUIN: She's upstairs. She told me before I came out. She said remember your birthday and I forgot. Oh, I get so nervous, I forgot.

DAVE: Well, we'll send somebody to find you mom.

JOAQUIN: OK, and just get a note or something...

DAVE: Your birthday is next week, and will there be like a big Hollywood actor party?

JOAQUIN: No, I'm not sure but I think I had the party already *laughter* uhm...

DAVE: You think it may have taken place already?

JOAQUIN: I think so. I'm not... I'm a little slow Dave. I don't know if you got that... uhm but I went.. uhm I was invited by my sisters, they invited me to this restaurant. So I went to this restaurant and sat down, it was very nice, and another friend of mine came in, Rory, and showed up out of nowhere and I thought "well, that's fantastic, that's great". So he came in and another couple of friends and I said "what a coincidence, we're all in the same place, this is fantastic!"

DAVE: It didn't really dawn on you.

JOAQUIN: I didn't know until someone gave me some presents and then I went *speaks with funny voice* wait a minute, this is my birthday! We were like signing the check when I got it. I finally was like "it's my birthday".

DAVE: That's good, that's nice, I mean it's very...

JOAQUIN: It was a surprise.

DAVE: A surprise.

JOAQUIN: It's still a surprise.

DAVE: And a really good surprise apparently, but it says something nice about you. You're sort of unpretentious, unassuming...

JOAQUIN: And slow *laughter*

DAVE: Not self-centered. But now when the actual day comes around, will you yourself mark it in any special way?

JOAQUIN: *sucks in air* Nope. *laughter* Was I supposed to?

DAVE: No, do whatever you want.

JOAQUIN: *grabs Daves notes and reads* Listen, there has to be somehing marked here... birthday...

DAVE: It ain't gonna help.

JOAQUIN: No? OK. Can we do the thing where I throw the pen back there and it makes the sound?

DAVE: Help yourself.

JOAQUIN: *kisses the pencil and throws it - sound of breaking glass - audience applaudes* YES, YES!! Thank you very much, thank you. That's fantastic!

DAVE: Fun isn't it?

JOAQUIN: That's really fun. That's fantastic.

DAVE: You have a new tattoo?

JOAQUIN: *stares at Dave with disbelief* How...? He is so... *ticks on forehead* You're mind is amazing...

DAVE: I'm just going on. I don't care what I... *licks pencil and checks his notes* I'm just checking off now. We're down to the tattoo now, here we go.

JOAQUIN: I don't know how you can know, because it's down here...*points at arm*

DAVE: Let's see how you can do with that one.

JOAQUIN: Oh no, everything else was a failure... Why do you leave me hanging? It's up to me!! *refers to conversation subjects*

PAUL SCHAEFER: Yes or no, I think, right?

DAVE: Yes or no, you have a new tattoo.

JOAQUIN: *quasi serious* Yes.

DAVE: OK, great. Tell us what sort it is and then we'll find out where it is.


DAVE: Do you have many, first of all?

JOAQUIN: No, I just have one, and I got it... It's just *stuttering* I don't know, it's hard, no-one knows, it's a bit confused. It kind of has an identity crisis. I was in Italy and I tried to get... I wanted to get a circle because I didn't want like a...

DAVE: A circle meaning something to you, something symbolic?

JOAQUIN: No, I just didn't want something that meant wisdom in Gaelic or anything like that. And I didn't want a little symbol, so I just went for something simple which was a circle.

DAVE: Later you can make it a happy face.

JOAQUIN: You can do anything, yes, exactly, you can go places.

DAVE: You start with the circle.

JOAQUIN: That's right, oh, that's good. *clapping*

DAVE: Allright now listen, stay there and think about more interesting things to say about the tattoo right? And then we'll come back and finish up OK?

JOAQUIN: Where are you going?

DAVE: We have to pay some bills.

JOAQUIN: Pay some bills?

DAVE: Yeah, we have to pay some bills.

JOAQUIN: OK, bye! *waves*

DAVE: We'll be right back with Joaquin Phoenix.


DAVE: Joaquin Phoenix is here. Great aren't they (referring to the orchestra)

JOAQUIN: Fantastic.

DAVE: So you got a circle tattoo in Italy. I don't think of tattoos so much as being Italian. I don't think let's go to Italy and get some tattoos." I didn't even know you can do that.

JOAQUIN: Yeah, I didn't either. I didn't really plan on it, it just happened, but it was strange because...

DAVE: Now wait a minute, it just happened, that's obviously not true. *laughter*
JOAQUIN: You see right through me. OK, I had a few drinks.

DAVE: What town in Italy?

JOAQUIN: I have no idea, I mean this is part of the... it's all a big mystery. No, it was in Florence and I don't speak any Italian, but I thought a circle was pretty easy. I thought he could handle that, you know what I mean? I just drew it on a paper, I said "here's a circle, can you do that?"

DAVE: How large, what was the diameter?

JOAQUIN: It's about that big *shows the size with his thumb and index finger*

DAVE: The size of a silver dollar, about like that?

JOAQUIN: I've never seen a silver dollar, but I'll take your word for it.

DAVE: Never seen a silver dollar?

JOAQUIN: No, is that unamerican or something?

DAVE: No, but I think it says more about your youth really than anything. Because when I was a kid, if we'd do something good, grandma would give you a silver dollar.

JOAQUIN: I got 10 dollars, that's the difference. Prices went up. I thought I did pretty good, it was pretty good ten dollars.

DAVE: You can't get them anymore. Are they still in print? No they don't print them, they mint them.

PAUL SCHAEFER: I think they are, I think you can still get them.

DAVE: Really? Huh?

PAUL: They have the new silver dollar.

JOAQUIN: They have the new silver dollar. I'm so sorry, I don't know what it is, but I trust you. I think it's about that. *show size with fingers again*

DAVE: A little more like that. *Dave also shows the size and they compare*

JOAQUIN: Let's see, that's pretty good. Your hands are bigger than mine.

DAVE: Yours is more like a romboid (?)

JOAQUIN: It is. Well this is what happened, maybe it's my fault the tattoo is ridiculous, because maybe I drew it wrong.

DAVE: Where did you get it, what part of your anatomy?

JOAQUIN: I got it on my arm on the inside. *points at right arm* In here. He did it and of course it hurt unbelievably and I was weeping, I was crying. It's bleeding all over, it's pathetic. My friends filming me, giggling. *makes funny heehee sound* We finally finished, it was such a relief and I lift my arm and it's not a circle at all! It's this odd... I don't know what it is, some very weird symbol.

DAVE: Like a pear or something?

JOAQUIN: It's confused. I said this is not a circle man. I don't know what's going on. He said "yeah of course it's a circle when you put your arm down. Just because you're lifting your arm it stretches." But who sees the...?

DAVE: Yeah, you got screwed there, that's...

JOAQUIN: That's not good!

DAVE: That's no good, no.

JOAQUIN: But what do I do? I can't return it!

DAVE: Why was this the location of choice to begin with? Honestly, because that's part of the problem. I'm not saying he didn't screw you...

JOAQUIN: That's a good question. *Looks at Daves notes* I didn't know you were going to ask that. It makes me uncomfortable a little bit. *laughter* I don't know why that is to tell you the truth.

DAVE: Alright, lets talk about something else. How about the movie The Yards. I like this movie. It's kind of dark, scary, grim, a sort of dark kind of film.

JOAQUIN: Really?

DAVE: Yeah.

JOAQUIN: I didn't know that.

DAVE: You and Mark Wahlberg and James Caan.

JOAQUIN: James Caan, who was here.

DAVE: Very funny also, here he was just delightful. Did you enjoy working with him?

JOAQUIN: Oh, loved it, yeah. He's very funny, a great actor. It's always hard for me when I work. People have difficulty with my name. I know you got it now.

DAVE: Wahkeen Phoenix

JOAQUIN: Yeah, very good. But I went out one night with Mark and James and some of the other cast and Mark came up to me and said "you gotta talk to these guys. They keep calling you Hakeem and Hareem and Racheem." So now Mark calls me Hareem all the time. Him and James go "hey Hareem! , Hakeem!" whatever it is. So it's always an issue for me. Maybe I should just go to Dave or something.

DAVE: They're just idiots.

JOAQUIN: Really? It's their fault?

DAVE: It's a great name.

JOAQUIN: You like it?

DAVE: Yeah, it's a terrific name.

JOAQUIN: So sweet.

DAVE: James Caan, what was he like to work with? He was nice to you wasn't he?
JOAQUIN: Yeah, he's very nice. But it's just difficult working with him, because he's so funny. You know, emotional tough scenes, he always tries to make you laugh. He is a great guy. He's very funny. I found his ring actually. *pretends to find a ring on his chair*

DAVE: Ah, the old fish story.

JOAQUIN: They don't know, because they didn't watch the other night. You've gotta watch the Dave show all the time. The inside jokes, he's always... Is it called the Dave show? It's not.

DAVE: You've got to watch it every night. It is, it's called the Dave show. *laughter*

JOAQUIN: I think of it as the Dave show. It's the Dave show right?

DAVE: It's the Dave show. Let's take a look at a clip of the yards alright? This is you and Mark Wahlberg. Is this a fight scene, is that what we're looking at?

JOAQUIN: *Looks over his shoulder* Mom?? *laughter* She told me all this stuff and I can't remember.

DAVE: Next time we'll book your mom. *laughter*

JOAQUIN: That's what I said. I told her to come down with me. I said she could really help me out.

DAVE: Let's take a look, let's show the folks. Here we go: The Yards.

CLIP (They don't show the fight scene at all. It's a scene with Joaquin, James Caan and another actor and they are discussing what to do about Leo.)

DAVE: Pretty good, pretty good. You fit right in with those guys. Very nice.

JOAQUIN: Yeah, it's a great movie, coming out on Friday.

DAVE: It opens on Friday.

JOAQUIN: I thought I was supposed to say that part.

DAVE: No, it opens on Friday.

JOAQUIN: *takes another look at Dave's notes* Uhm...Oh, I see that says you. OK. Cool.

DAVE: You have to go now.

JOAQUIN: O really? Wait, what about Quills?

DAVE: Nice to see you again. *End of interview*