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Video: Phoenix on Letterman

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 23, 2010 at 9:25AM

David Letterman welcomed a slim and shaved Joaquin Phoenix back on The Late Show after a year and half, saying that on February 11, 2009, "he looked like he was sitting on a piece of cheese and swallowed a live mouse." Letterman wasn't in on the act, but said, "I'd be half a dumbbell not to be in on it," he said. "He was a side of beef in a suit. It's like he brought out the heavy bag and turned me loose. What else could I do?" Letterman played into Phoenix's hands, he told him: "You came out looking for a beat-down and you got one."
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Thompson on Hollywood

David Letterman welcomed a slim and shaved Joaquin Phoenix back on The Late Show after a year and half, saying that on February 11, 2009, "he looked like he was sitting on a piece of cheese and swallowed a live mouse." Letterman wasn't in on the act, but said, "I'd be half a dumbbell not to be in on it," he said. "He was a side of beef in a suit. It's like he brought out the heavy bag and turned me loose. What else could I do?" Letterman played into Phoenix's hands, he told him: "You came out looking for a beat-down and you got one."

Filmmaker Casey Affleck got mad at Phoenix, he said, after the bearded and paunchy actor broke out of character for a moment, removed his shades and thanked Letterman on his way off the stage. The talk show host probably wanted that other guest back, because he was more entertaining than the "real" Phoenix, who smiled engagingly and looked genuinely worried when Letterman insisted on getting paid $1 million for the use of five minutes from the show in a film that was clearly not a documentary, I'm Still Here (in theaters). "I don't have $1 million in my bank account," Phoenix protested.

Letterman asked if Phoenix knew what a career risk he was taking. "I knew there was that risk--I'm not sure I have that much of a career now--I was willing to take that risk," Phoenix said. Letterman asked if it was worth it. "!00 %," said Phoenix. (CBS video below.)

Various press reactions: LAT, EW, Hitfix.

This article is related to: Video, TV


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.