Joaquin Phoenix proved himself a worthy vocalist playing Johnny Cash in 2005’s Walk the Line, but the Hollywood heartthrob is now threatening an all-out transition from silver screen star to laughable hip hop MC.
Videos by American Songwriter
Spinal Tap may be returning in 2009, but it looks like the mantle of mock superstar has already been passed on. Joaquin Phoenix proved himself a worthy vocalist playing Johnny Cash in 2005’s Walk the Line, but the Hollywood heartthrob is now threatening an all-out transition from silver screen star to laughable hip hop MC. To lend the evolution legitimacy, fellow actor and brother-in-law Casey Affleck is capturing the entire process on film for an upcoming documentary.
While such career leaps are not unheard of – see Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Jeff Daniels, Scarlett Johansson and Zooey Deschanel — Phoenix’s switch carries with it no small amount of controversy. Known for their prankster antics, the Phoenix-Affleck duo could very well amount to little more than an elaborate joke. And given Phoenix’s debut performance in Las Vegas last month, where he donned a set of fully grown facial drapes and ended up tripping off the stage, the project all but invites skepticism.
With Phoenix’s continued assurance that the whole thing is legit, however, there’s no telling whether or not he’s anything but serious. After all, sought-after producer and hip hop doyen P. Diddy has agreed to back Phoenix’s debut album and, apparently, actor Dermot Mulroney will guest on the album as a cellist. Thus far, Phoenix says he has 10 songs under his belt, only three of which he says are album-worthy, which include the titles “Can I Get a Refund?” and “If You’re Going to San Francisco.”
In response to accusations of fakery, Phoenix had this to say to the Associated Press: “There’s not a hoax. Might I be ridiculous? Might my career in music be laughable? Yeah, that’s possible, but that’s certainly not my intention.”
To the Vegas incident, he responded: “It sucks, yeah, the footage is out there as like this incredibly bad sound, and you literally can’t hear what’s happening … My experience afterward was I had a lot of dudes come up and say, ‘We really respect you for doing it, putting yourself out there, and going with it.’ Because I think true hip hop heads know that it’s hard, it’s going to be a hard transition, and people are going to be lining up just to make fun of me.”
Still, that’s exactly what you’d expect to hear from the man looking to pull off such a stunt while under the scrutiny of every gossip rag across the country.
Regardless, the concept does not come without its fair share of hilarity. What’s at stake, really, is not so much the public’s naiveté, but whether or not Phoenix is the master behind the mischief, or the brunt of his own sad joke.
– Dustin Allen