Monday February 26, 2001. Hotel Bristol-board. 16h00

by Helene Bienaimé for Actustar.

It is with the Hotel Bristol-board which my discussion with Joaquin Phoenix must proceed. The star is in Paris to present his new film, Quills, in which it incarne a young priest tortured by desires in love and advised by the Marquis de Sade, that he lodges in his old people's home.
Arrival a little advances some, I have time to check the piles of my recorder and to transpose my questions in English. Eh! yes, the sior Phoenix does not speak a word about French says me one...
16h15: it is the hour! Here he is, smiling, in relaxed behaviour, which accompanies back its preceding hosts journalists and invites me to follow him. After me to be briefly excused for my English accent, maintenance can start...

After Commodus in Gladiator and Willie Gutierrez in The Yards, you play finally a nice character. Is this a chance or a need for change?
I never had the impression to play the malicious ones. My characters are more than the simple malicious ones. Each one represents a complex character who asked me much work. I initially turned The Yards and if Willie is a bastard, it is not really malicious. When one proposed Gladiator to me, I was not going all the same to refuse under pretext which I had just played a guy who kills his girl friend and whom it was still about playing malicious. These two characters are very different. At all events, I am content with playing a good man in Quills... Like that, the journalists will stop asking me why I always play the malicious ones! You know, my only capacity as an actor is to accept or to refuse a role but to be honest I do not look at my films once finished. With Coulmier, I more or less sought with playing a character who has noble intentions, from the very start and I think that this role came at the right moment in my career. It avoided me torturing the spirit a few times. It was resting.

Had you intended to speak about Sade before film? Did you read the books?
Of course, I had heard spoken about Sade. I initially read the part from where the film is drawn, then I started to read his books. I then realized that I did not want to know the marquis under this angle, for a certain number of reasons. Our marquis and the historical marquis is different initially and then, in our Coulmier history does not know about the work achieved by the Marquis. I did not want to have in memory a Marquis supplementing a book but rather a patient finding cure thanks to the writing. This is why I was not beyond in my readings.

The history proceeds in France and you play a French. Do you speak French?
No, it is very embarrassing for me to recognize it, but I cannot even say thank you in French. I am sorry.

You liked what in the character of Coulmier? Do you think that its way of acting is due to the writings of Sade or simply to the fact that he is in love with this girl?
Coulmier disavowed to it quasi totality of his emotions and desires. The Marquis is simply a catalyst. He awakes part of the true nature of Coulmier, which realizes, in the scene of the dream, which he has an animal side. We have a whole a dark and perverse side as well as an internal beauty. The Marquis tries to convince Coulmier which he has sex while this one tries to render comprehensible with the Marquis whom it has a heart. With the end, these two characters are whole because they hold the duality of the human nature, made up of sexuality and spirituality like an acquired thing. I approached this Abbot in three stages: the pure idealist of the beginning which changes and matures on arrival of the doctor to finish completely disillusioned. It is not a hero.

Next 25 March, will proceed 7é the ceremony of the Oscars, in Los Angeles. This year you are nominated in the category better actor of second role for your interpretation of Convenient in Gladiator. Were you surprised to be nominated. Do you think of deserving this Oscar?
I especially was surprised not to be returned turning of Gladiator (laughter). Seriously, this nomination left me without voice. Not having never practised a sport like the baseball or this kind of things, I was never very competitive. When I found myself with the ceremony of the BAFTAS (British Oscars), I was in a room filled realizers and actors who celebrated the cinema. I liked these moments much, where the significant one was not the reward but to find itself all together. I await the same thing of the Oscars. Nevertheless, all the actors named in my category are fantastic and I have a preference for Benicio de Toro which deserves it particularly..

You come from a family of actors (his/her sisters Rain and Summer (which played recently in Esther Kahn) and his/her brothers, Rainbow and River (which was pointed out in My Own Private Idaho of Gus Van Sant ) are all actors). What gave you the desire for becoming actor?
We were very expressive children. It is incredible the number of children who grow without being able to express itself. Our parents never forced us to do something which we did not like. We were treated individually, with respect, and were encouraged in the way which enabled us to be expressed. When one comes from a large family and linked, one tends to copy the ones the others. When oldest do something of cool, everyone wants to make like them, while trying to be different.

Is there a film which we did not see in France and which you already completed? If not, do you have projects for 2001?
Not, I did not work since Quills. I was tired and the scénarii that I read at the time were not good. At all events, I should soon give me to work for the turning of a satire on the military forces in times of peace. That is supposed to be held after the Cold war in Germany. The soldiers who do not know what to make, fight between them and take drugs to spend time.
I must also interpret the voice of a character for next Disney of which I do not know the title yet. Then, I connect with new film of Thomas Vinterberg(Festen), with Claire Danes as partner. The film occurs in a future where the human ones are completely disconnected from/to each other.
You see, after my stay in Paris, I will not be unemployed... (laughter)

And here that attached of press surreptitiously enters the show in order to notify to us that maintenance is finished. 20 minutes, it is short! Joaquin nevertheless was very patient and did not even make me repeat my questions in English... Go Joaquin, one serves the hand and one says oneself to soon...