Given actor Joaquin Phoenix's involvement in the project, the aura of weirdness following his new film around the festival circuit shouldn't really come as any surprise. The now-famously eccentric actor made waves a few years ago with his faux-retirement mockumentary "I'm Still Here," a strange performance art experience that seems to have transformed him into a bit of a loose cannon. Adding to this reputation is Phoenix's intense and enigmatic turn as an alcoholic World War II veteran in director Paul Thomas Anderson's new film "The Master."
After some odd behavior at the Venice Film Festival (where "The Master" premiered last week), many expected Phoenix to continue his strange antics at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival this weekend. And while the actor didn't quite top his Venice performance, he did turn a few heads... by not showing up to the press conference for his own movie after a lengthy delay.The Weinstein Company
Starting over half an hour late, the assembled journalists got a surprise visit from mega-producer Harvey Weinstein (whose company is distributing the film) before the press conference even began. Weinstein apologized for the delay, stating that Phoenix, along with co-star Amy Adams and director Anderson, had been stuck in traffic because of a parade that was currently taking place in dowtown Toronto. However, when Anderson, Adams, and producer JoAnne Sellar took to the stage just moments later, Phoenix was nowhere to be seen.
But Phoenix's absence wasn't the only "elephant in the room." A journalist kicked off the discussion with a question about the real-life Church of Scientology and its relation to "The Cause," the organization featured in the film. Anderson deflected it with a laugh, saying that the reporter just laid it out "perfectly" with his question.The Weinstein Company
Also noticeably absent was the Master himself, Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote"). The Oscar-winning actor and frequent Anderson collaborator was in Toronto for the premiere of "The Master," but had to fly back to Venice to accept the festival's best actor prize (an award he shared with Phoenix) and the Silver Lion for best direction on behalf of his friend Anderson. The director was "thrilled" about the awards and praised his two actors as "strong hitters" but also "team players."
When someone did finally ask Anderson why Phoenix was a no-show at the press conference, the filmmaker seemed to play up the actor's eccentricities. "He's too unpredictable!" joked Anderson, who then quickly attempted to deflect a followup by claiming he owned the same tape recorder as the journalist who asked the question.
The filmmaker went on to describe a powerful scene in the "The Master" in which Phoenix's character Freddie Quell goes berserk in a jail cell. Anderson said that he and Phoenix had discussed three possible scenarios for the scene before shooting it, but when it came time to film it Joaquin just "went crazy" on the first take. Though they subsequently shot different versions of the scene, it was that first take that ended up in the final version of the movie.
So, where was Phoenix? A chair and microphone were never actually put out for Phoenix, so perhaps he had not planned to attend in the first place. Still, when Harvey Weinstein promises people that you're going to be somewhere, it's probably worth showing up. Was the no-show a case of art imitating life, or did Phoenix just have too much of a good time after the film's Friday night premiere?
"The Master" is set for wide release on Sept. 14.