BEVERLY HILLS, California — As a reporter, I typically try to keep myself out of the story. Today, however, I had one of the strangest interviews of my career — and it was Oscar nominee [movieperson id="166907"]Joaquin Phoenix[/movieperson] who wanted to make me part of his new hip-hop reinvention.
"It ain't nothing personal," the "Walk the Line" star insisted as he staggered into a room at the Four Seasons, unrecognizable with a Rick Rubin-like beard, long unkempt hair, sunglasses and a lit cigarette constantly in his hand, granting what might be the final interview of his acting career. "But honestly, today, I was getting dressed for hours, prepping. And I was just really satisfied that I wasn't gonna have to do this again."
Recently, MTV News was contacted and told that Phoenix would be hosting a very small group of press to discuss "Two Lovers," his supposed final film as an actor. The star would not speak to us on camera and requested instead that we join several other news outlets sitting around a table, armed only with audio recorders. To make things even more unusual, Oscar nominee Casey Affleck manned one of two cameras that came into the room with Phoenix, shooting our interview for a mysterious, upcoming documentary about his hip-hop career.
"I threaten myself with quitting after every movie," Phoenix explained to us. "[Retiring] is something that I've thought about for a long time. ... In some ways, I felt like I needed to make a statement really for myself, in terms of quitting [acting]. I didn't realize it was going to be such a big deal. I thought nobody would give a f---, really, to be frank."
"Terrible," he said with a grin, telling us that early audiences have been yelling, "Johnny Cash!" at him. "I've gone to little small places, and I guess some people there filmed it and sh-- and put it on [the Internet], which was really nerve-racking, because there's literally people there heckling you. ... The show in Vegas, I just don't think you could tell on the video, but it was a lot better than people think. ... I just figure, put yourself out there and crash, and then you rebuild yourself and find your way into it."
Phoenix also harshly dismissed celebrity DJ Dan Suh's offer to become his DJ, scoffing that he doesn't need a DJ before crumpling up Suh's pitch letter and tossing it over his shoulder.
Speaking of crashing, Phoenix also addressed the nasty spill he took at the end of that Vegas show. "I didn't f---ing fall," he insisted, jumping up from his chair to demonstrate. "First of all, it's not a stage, it's about [3 feet] wide. You're up on this little platform, there's f---ing lights everywhere right in your eyes, flashing at you like that, and everything is dark. I literally just went to step off the thing and misjudged and slipped down. I wasn't f---ed up and fell down. I jumped down, and I literally jumped back up without harm."
Discussing his new disheveled look, he explained: "It stops people from saying, 'Johnny Cash!' Now, they just say, 'Grizzly Adams!' "
Joaquin also dismissed a recent report that his retirement and hip-hop career were all an elaborate hoax for the sake of Affleck's documentary, blaming the rumor on a disloyal, unnamed former colleague. "Somebody who is an old friend, or somebody that I worked with on music, [spoke to the press]. I've worked with a lot of people on music, and oftentimes those things don't work out. Sometimes you have some bad blood between people. ... I realize that [my hip-hop career] might seem ridiculous to other people, but I can't concern myself with that."
Phoenix and Affleck both confirmed that the actor's debut album (to be released later this year) would include some level of participation from Diddy. "We are going to work together shortly. As to whether that will be a complete album or not, I don't know. But Diddy said to me, 'You've gotta get out there,' " Phoenix revealed, crediting the hip-hop mogul for his early club appearances. "I have 10 songs now, and three of them I think are really good, and the others I think are pretty crap. But I'll work on them."
Asked about those three good songs, he revealed: "One is called 'Can I Get a Refund?,' one is called 'If You're Going to San Francisco,' and one is called 'Daddy Dum Dum.' "
And since most rappers love to feature guest stars in their music, Phoenix said he has a diverse group of people he has invited to record with him. "I want Dermot Mulroney," he said of the "My Best Friend's Wedding" actor. "He is an amazing cellist. ... I'd love to get Flea [from the Red Hot Chili Peppers]. I saw [Method Man] recently at House of Blues perform with Redman, so he said he wanted to come in and do a verse. Also, Diddy knows a lot great people and stuff. ... My dream would be to have DJ Premier produce a track and have Chuck D too — but Chuck D would never do it."
Discussing his sound, Phoenix said it's "under construction" and that he hopes to give us the hip-hop equivalent of Pink Floyd's epic, groundbreaking album. "I sound like such a f---ing di--, but what I wanna do is make the f---ing Wall. I want to do the hip-hop Floyd. ... I have one track right now that's five minutes that I'm trying to make seven. It might just be seven minutes of pure misery, but hopefully it's seven minutes.
"It's not about success," Phoenix said of his rap career, while Affleck and the other camera crew swooped around the sunglasses-clad star. "It's not about quote, unquote 'being good.' It's about an experience. I didn't act because I wanted people to say I was good; I enjoyed that process. And now, I enjoy this process. What can I say? [My rap album] might suck. Everyone might hate it, and I might be the only one who likes it. But that's OK, because I'm having an amazing time making the record."
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