Star Chat A Conversation with Joaquin Phoenix

Tributeís Bonnie Laufer chats with Joaquin Phoenix about working alongside Mel Gibson on M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller, Signs.

B.L. This role was something we havenít seen from you onscreen. What was your first reaction when you read this script that made you want to be in the film?
J.P. Well, one of the elements was this less complex, kind of straightforward character with some comic elements. Something that I really hadnít had the opportunity to play but something that I did want to do. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

B.L. What really stands out in Signs is the real sense of family that is portrayed between you and Mel Gibson and the kids. It really did seem like you formed this special bond. How did you like working on this set with everybody?
J.P. On Nightís sets it feels like a big family because he is working with a lot of the same crew from his previous films. So everybody knows each other really well. There is this feeling of unity working together and that is really familial. I think a lot of that carried through into the film and it was certainly important, because essentially it becomes about these four people in this house. To get that dynamic right was very important.

B.L. What makes M. Night Shyamalan such a unique writer, director and producer? What is it about this guy that makes everyone want to work with him?
J.P. Well, thatís one of the things Ė he directs, writes, produces and acts; thatís pretty unique! But, I think his ability to combine both what is entertaining and what is more emotional together into one seamless role is pretty impressive. I think it's kind of a unique trait.

B.L. Mel Gibson plays your brother in this film and you have some pretty intense scenes together. Do you find as a young actor that you are still learning from some of the older actors that you work with?
J.P. Certainly. I think that every experience that I have had or every film that I work on, I learn something else. I couldnít really tell you specifically, and I have never really had anyone sit me down and say, "well son, let me tell you something". I donít think that Mel is that arrogant or presumptuous to try to give me a lesson. But what certainly struck me was how gracious he was an actor and very smart. A lot of scenes where it seemed like the temptation presented itself to act up a storm, he didnít. He pulled back and was restrained. I was quite impressed with that. He did an amazing job in this movie.

B.L You were literally Uncle Joaquin on this set. How did you like working with the two little kids who played your niece and nephew? Now thereís something new for you!
J.P. It was so much fun having kids on a movie. I got to play a lot of basketball and things like that. They are very talented actors and very sweet kids. It was great.