After supposedly being burned by hoax, James Gray will reunite with Joaquin Phoenix: What gives?

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Image Credit: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

You’d think director James Gray would be extremely wary of teaming up with Joaquin Phoenix again, given what happened with their last outing together, 2009’s Two Lovers. As you might remember (who could forget?), the publicity campaign for that small indie drama wound up being overshadowed and, many felt, completely sabotaged by the bizarre spectacle of Phoenix’s apparent public meltdown and much-ridiculed reinvention as a bearded, mumbling, stumbling wannabe rapper. At the time of Two Lovers‘ release, Gray insisted to EW that he was as baffled as everyone else by Phoenix’s talk of quitting acting and rebooting his career as a hip-hop artist: ”I hope he’s not serious. I think he might be,” he said. ”I’m hoping that his batteries get recharged and he gets the desire to act again. Sean Penn has announced he’s retiring about 30,000 times. So who knows?” When it all turned out to be a big hoax, culminating in last year’s pseudo-documentary I’m Still Here, you’d have assumed Gray would be the last one to find the whole thing amusing. Indeed, there were rumors that the two, who had earlier worked together on the films The Yards and We Own the Night, had a falling out in the wake of Two Lovers.

Yet, after all that, Gray is now preparing to embark on his fourth film with Phoenix, a gritty drama called Low Life. As first reported by Deadline, Phoenix will play a sleazy pimp who preys on a Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) and lures her into a life of prostitution. So what’s the deal? Is Gray just a really forgiving soul? Is he a glutton for punishment? Neither, in fact. The truth is, following the release of I’m Still Here, its director, Casey Affleck, revealed that Gray was in on the joke from the start and willing to play along to bring attention to Two Lovers. “James just wanted people to see his movie,” Affleck told Roger Ebert in an interview. “Magnolia released that as well as my movie and I don’t think a whole lot of people would have seen it if Joaquin didn’t have a beard and hadn’t told people he was retiring. But maybe I’m wrong. James also was told what was going on.”

So there you have it. James Gray and Joaquin Phoenix are still cinematic BFFs, no hard feelings. And while Phoenix clearly has no future as a rapper, Gray just might have some potential as an actor. He certainly fooled us.

Read more:
Joaquin Phoenix may head back to the big screen as someone other than ‘himself.’
Joaquin Phoenix and David Letterman, round 2: Fresh put-ons, insults, and apologies
Casey Affleck admits his Joaquin Phoenix documentary wasn’t real: Are you at all surprised?

Comments (9 total) Add your comment
  • Dash

    I’m just glad to see that Joaquin is getting back into acting.

  • janie briggs

    Joaquin. get back to doing decent films like Gladiator, Signs, and Walk the Line. Enough with playing low lifes and hobos and drug addicts. How about a funny movie to change things up?

  • Mike

    Gray can be mad all he wants… but the bottom line is Phoenix is a great, great actor and when push comes to shove, talent is king. If the role is best suited for Joaquin, then bygones need to be bygones.

  • lifeafterlost

    hold on. joaquin is still gonna work with Paul thomas Anderson right? like this is after the master? because I love every single one of PTAs films and most of phoenixs. PTA is my favorite director and joaquin is one of my favorite actors and having them work together is like really good sex haha

  • auntiecarol69

    Wow the films keep coming for Joaquin. Its from famine to feast and why not. He’s a truly talented, versatile Hollywood actor

    • Joe

      It does seem bizarre, doesn’t it? You have to admit, Phoenix in his eunrcrt bearded incarnation does bear a slight resemblance to Tony Clifton. Not sure I’d see this in theaters if it got a major release, but I’m still really interested to see how this will all play out.

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    • Renata

      Putting the ideology aside, the fact is that those who want to put a “liberal” talk radio iostatn on the air are operating in a far different climate from the one extant in 1988 when Rush hit it big. In 1988, owners of AM iostatns had seen their fortunes falter due to FM. But most still had ratings of some sort and wanting to salvage something before music radio on AM died altogether.Now, most owners of all but the biggest AM iostatns in a market the size of Phoenix have abandoned attempts to garner audiences sufficient to be included in the Arbitrons. They have evolved a successful business model brokering time — be it to preachers, financial husters, ethnic/foreign language producers, vitamin peddlers, or vanity radio shows. This is the impediment to Air America’s return to the Phoenix airwaves. If there were the risk-taking environment present in 1988, and if most AM owners were still interested in actual ratings, AAR would have no trouble getting back on in PHX-town. By the way, conspiracy theories have historically served as great fuel for talk radio careers, giving one the aura of a fighting underdog, which Americans historically love. Howard Stern built his rep on getting fired by NBC and claiming the suits were out to get him. NBC Radio died soon after he left. Coincidence? Of course, but that didn’t stop Stern from making the most of it.Limbaugh made a big deal out of getting fired in KC for his conservative commentaries, by a man who later managed KIRO. Failure is often the prelude to success.

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