Joaquin Phoenix Doesn’t Rise, or Do Anything Else, for Letterman

There isn’t much to say about Joaquin Phoenix’s appearance on last night’s Late Show with David Letterman. Which is fitting, as not much was actually said—at least, not by Phoenix.

Throughout the squirm-worthy interview, which will surely join the ranks of fellow bizarrely awkward interviewees Crispin Glover and Farrah Fawcett, Phoenix mumbled, fidgeted and, at times, insulted his way through what can only be described as a contractually obligated appearance in support of his new indie flick—and acting swan song—Two Lovers.

In his opening gambit, Letterman inquired as to the unkempt and newly hirsute nature of his silent guest.

“I’m OK with it, but now you’re making me feel weird about it,” Phoenix said before beginning one of the interview’s longest pauses.

To break the ice, Letterman posed his next question: “What can you tell us about your days with the Unabomber?”

Things only got worse from there.

When the topic inevitably turned to his music career, Phoenix confirmed that hip-hop was his genre of choice, a revelation that sparked laughter from the audience and ire from the actor.

“That’s a joke? What do you have them on? What do you gas them up with? Is this nitrous?”

He went on to tell his increasingly annoyed host that he’d “love to come on the show and perform” when his music career gets off the ground, a sentiment that Letterman, who presumably could deal with his uncooperation no more, quickly shot down.


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  1. I saw a few snippets of the interview on I think Joaquin Phoenix behaved unprofessionally by mumbling and failing to respond to questions, such as the one about setting up the clip. To be fair, I have seen interviews with other actors where they aren’t sure what clip is about to be shown, but they handled it with more aplomb. I had heard that Phoenix was starting a new career in rap music but clearly most of the audience hadn’t, and they had pretty much the same reaction I had — older white male decides to break into rap? He’s crazy. Letterman has always been tough on guests, and quite frankly, I don’t think he was as tough on Phoenix as he would have been in the same situation 10 or 15 years ago. In the ’90s, let’s just say if I had been in a movie or something, I wouldn’t have wanted to go on Letterman. He could be a real jerk. He’s much softer now that he has the earlier time slot. I don’t really know what Paul Shaffer was laughing at the one time, but then again, sometimes Paul is off in his own little world. Bottom line, considering Letterman wasn’t getting much from Phoenix, he did what he does and played it for laughs. Phoenix should have sucked it up and did what was right for his film and his self-respect.