Joaquin Phoenix: Recalcitrant Star

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingChapter


    In 2010, Joaquin Phoenix’s apparent attempt to re-brand himself as a rap artist became the subject of what was proclaimed as being his final film: I’m Still Here (Casey Affleck 2010). A fiction masquerading as documentary, the film shows Phoenix renouncing and distancing himself from his established persona, at that point as a two-time Oscar-nominated Hollywood star of action blockbuster Gladiator (Ridley Scott 2000) and Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line (James Mangold 2005). This Phoenix was the antithesis of the polished and professional media icon and, for many critics, this departure signalled creative suicide. And yet, the pseudo-documentary and context surrounding its production and release had a monumental impact in initiating the re-crafting and re-framing of Phoenix’s star persona. The actor has been subsequently sought out for more challenging and complex roles, predominantly outside of the mainstream, by filmmakers known for their creativity, artistic prowess and unconventionality such as Gus Van Sant, Lynne Ramsay, Paul Thomas Anderson and Spike Jonze. In this chapter, I examine Phoenix’s persona reconfiguration across the ten (predominantly independent) feature films he starred in during the 2010-2019 period, which culminate in his interpretation of iconic DC supervillain The Joker in the blockbuster origin story. Key to this reconfiguration, I argue, is a performance of rejection or recalcitrance that is manifest in his film performances of the decade as well as his media appearances, beginning with his disordered appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman at the end of the previous decade.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationStellar Transformations
    Subtitle of host publicationMovie Stars of the 2010s
    EditorsSteven Rybin
    PublisherRutgers University Press
    Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

    Publication series

    NameStar Decades
    PublisherRutgers University Press

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  • Cite this

    Peberdy, D. (2021). Joaquin Phoenix: Recalcitrant Star. Manuscript in preparation. In S. Rybin (Ed.), Stellar Transformations: Movie Stars of the 2010s (Star Decades). Rutgers University Press.