Quills Interview

by James Mottram BBC (2001)

Interviewer: Did you enjoy working on "Quills"?

Joaquin Phoenix: "Quills" was one of my toughest shoots. I'd finished " Gladiator", and I went and did reshoots on "The Yards" for a week, came back to London and started rehearsals for "Quills". I was exhausted. We shot virtually in order; some of the most intense scenes were in those last weeks. The last three weeks on "Quills" I didn't know if I could make it through the day. But Geoffrey Rush would come in, or Kate Winslet, and inspire you. It's a joint effort; you need everyone around you.

Interviewer: How do you characterise the relationship between your character and the Marquis?

Joaquin Phoenix: I think that he loves him as you love the most difficult child in the world. My character, Coulmier, is one of those people that can find the best in each person and wants to draw that out of them. It's a love-hate relationship. It's very difficult. How do you deal with someone who is so antagonistic? Coulmier is a very rational and logical man. The realisation at the end of the film is that the Marquis denies his ability to love, and Coulmier denies his sexual feelings.

Interviewer: Were you familiar with the Marquis de Sade's work?

I'm totally not familiar with his work. I started to read some, and then I felt I didn't want to be that familiar with it. It was important to maintain what world we were in. This is not historically accurate. For instance, Madeleine was a prostitute; her mother would prostitute her to the Marquis. Coulmier was a four-foot hunchback with a bum leg. That was the one part that I felt was really accurate, and typecasting!