So yesterday, Casey Affleck finally admitted that Joaquin Phoenix’s behavior for the past year or two has been a hoax. According to the New York Times, the entire “documentary,” I’m Still Here was staged, start to finish. Only one home video sequence, of the young Phoenix siblings performing on the streets of LA. was real. Everything else, including other supposed home video, were staged with actors.
When I first read this, I wasn’t very surprised but I was a little pissed. The idea that Phoenix’s friends and relatives would allow him to go down the path of drug abuse and mental illness, especially after the way Phoenix’s brother, River, died seems ridiculous. If he was really ill and strung out and his best friend/brother-in-law was only filming the process rather than getting involved, that would be incredibly messed up. I felt angry because I don’t like feeling like a fool, and the fact that I spent any time worrying about a rich celebrity when I could have been doing, oh, anything else in the world annoys me. Plus I don’t like the feeling of being duped.
After all that though, I was left wondering what could possibly be won by this hoax? Maybe Phoenix and Affleck thought it would become this intense cultural debate and they would become heroes, showing America the errors of it’s celebrity-obsessed ways. According to the Times article, Affleck wanted to keep it quiet because “he wanted audiences to experience the film’s narrative, about the disintegration of celebrity, without the clutter of preconceived notions.” That would make sense if Phoenix’s Letterman appearance hadn’t become so notorious. Multiple articles, online and off, speculated about whether Phoenix’s meltdown was real or a hoax. Still, Affleck swears that, “[t]he idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.” For that to be true, Affleck would have to be in a full media blackout and completely lack imagination. What else could he hope to achieve?
So now I wonder, what about the other allegations from the film set? Affleck was sued by two separate women for alleged sexual harassment on the set of I’m Still Here. Whether that was true or meant as a publicity stunt is up for grabs as well. Neither Casey Affleck nor Joaquin Phoenix will worry about losing credibility with me. One less person interested in what they have to say or seeing their films shouldn’t hurt either of them. And let’s be fair, if either of them shows up in an awesome movie I really want to see, of course I’ll go see it. If this experience taught me anything, it’s that there’s really no punishment for liars. At least not in the film industry. Though I’m not sure if there’s a benefit either.