You have to give the guys some credit – actor Joaquin Phoenix and his brother-in-law/director Casey Affleck kept one of Hollywood's greatest hoaxes alive for more than two years.
But now the truth is out: No, the "Walk the Line"-starring, Oscar-nominated Phoenix has not lost his marbles, decided to quit acting, and devoted his life to a rap career. The on- and off-screen performance of a lost, disheveled, meandering man was all a ruse for the mockumentary, "I'm Still Here."
Affleck finally confirmed what many had long suspected: “It’s a terrific performance," he told the New York Times of Phoenix's role.
Playing an unkempt, drug-fueled, delusional wanna-be rapper full-time (Phoenix debuted his extremely Method-style crazy-man persona on "The Late Show with David Letterman" in a much-buzzed-about February 2009 appearance), the actor had many people in and outside the industry scratching their heads. Was he truly a sad, Brian-Wilson-esque casualty of unfettered fame, or was he in on the joke?
Apparently, everyone involved in the project – down to Phoenix's agent, Patrick Whitesell, who has a part in the movie – was in on it. However, Affleck says that Letterman was definitely not aware of the hoax before or after last year's bizzaro interview. Phoenix returns to "The Late Show" on Sept. 22, and, this time, presumably, he'll be his beard-free, coherent self… and he'll have a lot of explaining to do.
Released by Magnolia Pictures last week, "I'm Still Here" has been met with abysmal reviews, one of the reasons Affleck says he's coming clean about the fiction. He speculates that his silence may have angered moviegoers and the press, but maintains he "never intended to trick anybody."
However, after all of the cat-and-mouse games surrounding the film, it's doubtful that anyone will believe anything that Affleck and Phoenix have to say for a very long time; unfortunately, they spent all their goodwill (and a lot of time pretending) on a film that did not nearly live up to the hype.