What happens when the leading man in the most critically acclaimed movie of your career goes off the deep end? If you've seen Joaquin Phoenix's appearance on Letterman, you know exactly what happens, and Two Lovers director James Gray is not happy about it.
News of Gray's latest film has been buried in headlines about Phoenix's antics as he claims to have abandoned acting to work on his (hopefully short-lived) hip-hop career. Gray vented his frustration to The Times , calling Phoenix a "clown," and disparaging his Late Show appearance.
"It’s like, Letterman was trying to get the movie out there, but the only thing that’s out there now is a crazy person with a beard making a fool of himself!"
If the whole thing is a hoax, Gray has been thoroughly taken. The director says he saw the transformation in its infancy, and believes it's for real.
"Towards the end of the movie he kept saying, ‘I’m tired, I’m tired, I don’t want to act any more. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I can’t take it!’ And I thought, at the time, he was just tired. But I must say, I’ve seen him in his house, and he has his own recording studio that he built right there. So if this is a hoax, then it’s the most elaborate thing that I have ever seen."
Up until Phoenix's bizarre transformation, Two Lovers had a strong buzz going. It was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival's highest honor, the Palme d'Or, over the summer. Gwyneth Paltrow's nude scenes had generated talk about the film. And even now, the movie holds an impressive 84% freshness rating at Rotten Tomatoes. With that sort of acclaim, you can understand why Gray is so angry about Phoenix stealing his thunder.
Two Lovers director James Gray (Getty Images) "I think that there might be some other explanation or something going on. I'm not quite sure what, but I can't believe that he's really going to quit forever to become a rapper. It seems odd."
Gray thinks so, too. But the director won't be bitter if it turns out it is some elaborate fraud.
"If it is shown to be a hoax, then that’s great, because Joaquin will come back to acting. And he is something special. But if it isn’t, ye know, I think he needs, well, help."