September 19, 2010

Phoenix Hoax Fallout


Casey Affleck, the brother-in-law of Joaquin Phoenix, and the director behind the recent "warts and all" documentary about Phoenix's attempt to transform himself into a rap artist; has revealed the movie - and Phoenix's career change - were all a hoax.   This reveal has surprised many in that it came so shortly after the film began showing at film festivals (including the just completed Toronto International Film Festival) which totally demystifies the movie and takes away much of the allure to see it.  Why spend a year building this elaborate fake story line then throw it all way shortly after the movie is made available to the public?  Seems odd.  It's even stranger when you factor in that Affleck stuck by the film and insisted to the press at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals that it was a real document of his friend and brother-in-law scrapping his acting career and earnestly pursing a new career in hip hop, only to then tell the New York Times the entire thing was a hoax less then a week later.  Affleck (strangely) claims that "I never intended to trick anybody.  The idea of a hoax never entered my mind."   This is a bizarre remark considering he just released a documentary about Joaquin Phoenix where Phoenix is acting from start to finish and is telling a purely fictionalized tale.  His documentary, by definition, isn't a documentary at all, and rather a pure work of fiction - or as Affleck calls it a look at "the disintegration of celebrity;" whatever that means.  How is it possible that a the notion of this being a hoax never entered Affleck's mind?

One of the hilites of Phoenix's (fictionalized) descent into madness was mostly incoherent, strange appearance on David Letterman.  (For the record, Phoenix, likely clean shave and using full sentences and talking about this faux-film, will return to the Letterman show on Wednesday.)   On Letterman - in character as the "retired actor turned rapper" - Phoenix appeared incoherent, confused, and mildly sedated.   This too, of course, was a hoax with the Letterman people in on it.   This isn't the first time Dave has courted weird controversy via a strange actor behaving, well, strangely.  On July 28th, 1987, actor Crispin Glover - best known as George McFly from Back to the Future - appeared on Letterman's old show, 'Late Night' and while wearing a wig and platform shoes gave a strange, rambling interview where he rails against the press in a peculiar panicked manner before announcing to Letterman that he was "strong" then he announced he "could kick" before sending a platform shoe within inches of Letterman's head which led to Dave announcing "I'm gonna go check on the Top Ten" before fleeing his desk and sending the show to commercial.  After the break, Letterman returned with Glover and commented on how close he came to getting a dent in his head.  It was, of course, spectacular television... but was it real?   First of all, this wasn't the result of Glover stoned out of his mind, though it did look that way.  He was on the show to promote the little known real crime drama The River's Edge (a great, dark movie by the way) but he elected to use this time, instead, to promote a movie that wouldn't be released for another four years.  He opted to do the entire interview with Letterman in character as "Rubin" from the little-seen and not yet made film Rubin & Ed, which would ultimately be made in 1991.  Letterman, apparently didn't know he was doing this, but I suspect he was acutely  aware that Glover had some Andy Kauffmanesque plan in store for the appearance. Strangely, Glover appeared on Letterman again, just two weeks later to "apologize" for the incident - which he never did, by the way, instead he denied ever being on the show before and despite many attempts by Letterman to get to the bottom of the his strange schtick on the previous appearance, Glover offered very little.  Back then, I used to pour through the TV Guide each week when it came in the paper to see who the guests were on the late night talk shows so I could tape any episodes featuring guests that intrigued me, and I remember finding it quite odd that Glover's name was listed as a Letterman guest ... again.   This was strange because these things were printed so far in advance that playoff games in any sporting event never had teams listed, and yet, with just a two-week lead, somehow they knew that Crispin Glover was going to return to the David Letterman show?  How could they have known that if, in fact, he hadn't been booked to return well before his first show ever aired?

Check out Glover's original, spectacularly odd appearance on Letterman below:

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