He evidently doesn’t like doing press conferences and discussing his performances, but Joaquin Phoenix admitted that he had his first enjoyable film festival experience in Berlin.
Phoenix was in town to promote Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and gave a typically enigmatic performance during a 30-minute press conference, where he gave a handful of self-mocking answers and appeared to switch off half-way through.
However, Phoenix, who plays Portland cartoonist John Callahan, an alcoholic crippled in a drunken automobile accident in the movie, did discover another side to the festival, away from the beauty parade press requirements, after watching Van Sant give a talk to young filmmakers as part of the Berlin Talents scheme.
“Typically when I go to film festivals, I just show up and do press and that’s it. So I usually hate film festivals. Last night, Gus was doing the Berlin Talents and I went along to watch and saw all these young filmmakers that are curious about the process and hearing Gus speak, I had a real appreciation for a film festival. It’s odd that I’m so old and that it’s the first time I really experienced a film festival for what it is for people so I was grateful for that experience,” he said.
Before drifting off, Phoenix did admit that it was “great working” with Van Sant again, after having worked with him on 1995’s To Die For. “Every movie feels different even when you work with somebody you’re familiar with but there are some qualities that Gus has that are consistent. He makes you feel really comfortable, it’s the least stressful set I’ve ever worked on. I think we had a lot of fun on this movie. It was really enjoyable working with Jonah.”
He didn’t have much time for a question about how he deployed silence during the film. “That sounds like a really cool festival question and I wish I had a really cool answer. What does silence mean to you? how you utilise it? I’m not making fun of you, I’m making fun of myself, I don’t think about silence, it never occurred to me but I am going to try and deploy it for my next job,” he said.
However, he admitted that he’s picked up some tips from the Milk and Drugstore Cowboy director that may come in handy for future promotional requirements. “Gus told me yesterday when during interviews, you just answer what you want to say, not answer the question and he just did it and it was really impressive, I need to learn how to do that.”
Phoenix was joined in the press conference by veteran German actor Udo Kier, who previously worked with Van Sant on My Own Private Idaho, which starred Phoenix’s brother River. “Gus discovered me in Berlin when he showed his first film, Mala Noche and invited me to be in My Own Private Idaho. When you’re German, your name is Hans. I worked with River Phoenix and now working with his brother was a pleasure and my name is Hans again. I’m very honored to be in this movie and Joaquin gave a great performance.”
The movie, which is produced by Iconoclast and Anonymous Content, is being released by Amazon Studios on July 13. It is being shopped internationally by FilmNation Entertainment at EFM.