With director Lynne Ramsay’s fantastic new movie, You Were Never Really Here, now playing in New York and Los Angeles, last week I did something incredibly cool: I got to sit down with Joaquin Phoenix for an hourlong exclusive interview. Unlike most interviews where the person promoting the film sits in a hotel room for hours and reporters shuffle in and out every ten to fifteen minutes, what was so unusual and cool about this conversation is that I met up with him at a local Los Angeles hotel and we sat outside by the pool and talked without any publicists or other people around. As a huge fan of his work, getting to have an intimate conversation with Phoenix was an experience I’ll never forget and I’ll always be grateful to everyone that made this happen.
Since the interview covered so many subjects I’ve decided to break it into two parts. In the first part, Phoenix talked about how he got involved in You Were Never Really Here, the unusual way he got into acting, if he’s interested in directing a feature, his thoughts on film versus digital filmmaking, how and why he went vegan, how he collected comics as a kid, and more.
In today’s installment, Phoenix talks about if he has any regrets over the roles he’s turned down, director Todd Phillips, if he might play the Joker, why the comic book movie genre is great for different interpretations of a character, his collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson and if there are any plans to work together in the near future, how often he reads scripts, how he’s willing to leave a movie if he’s not enjoying the experience, how he recently started a vegetable garden, and a lot more.
Check out what he had to say below and if you live near a theater playing You Were Never Really Here, I really recommend checking it out. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
Collider: I try to eat organic as much as I can and I wish I started sooner. I feel so much better as a person, eating healthier, eating more fruits and vegetables.
JOAQUIN PHOENIX: Here’s the next step, and this is just what recently what I’ve been getting into, is a vegetable garden. I don’t know if you have any amount of yard. Do you have any yard?
I’m never going to be able to do that, at least at this point in my life, but down the road, who knows?
PHOENIX: Because you don’t have the space or you don’t have the time?
PHOENIX: You live in an apartment?
No, there’s animals that live near me that would probably eat everything. It would be a tremendous amount of work. The ground that is in my area, I’d probably really have to till the land in a crazy way, insert dirt. There would be a huge upheaval.
PHOENIX: Okay. Well, whenever you can, that’s the move.
What are you growing?
PHOENIX: I can’t remember. I just take, like I say rock and roll gardening. I just grab fucking things, and I go, “I should probably put down what’s growing where, so I know,” but I don’t. I have arugula, I have leaf lettuce, zucchini, green beans.
Do you have some sort of sprinkler system? Are you manually …
PHOENIX: Both. There’s a sprinkler system that goes, but that only happens early morning. When it’s just starting out, I water it twice. In the beginning, I have to water it twice.
This is what you’re doing on Saturdays. We have finally come back to …
PHOENIX: Well, every day.
What happens when you’re filming a movie?
PHOENIX: It hasn’t happened yet.
You just installed all this. This is new.
PHOENIX: It’s been last year, when I got home, was when I started this.
PHOENIX: I’ve already gone through one cycle with the crops coming in, and so I just planted new stuff.
What happens when you’re filming again?
PHOENIX: I don’t know.
I’m sure you have at least a friend or two who can come over and water.
PHOENIX: The watering won’t be the problem.
PHOENIX: No, not animals.
Picking the vegetables as they’re done?
PHOENIX: Yeah. I mean they might just go back into the earth, but then that would be a cool life for them I guess.
In an ideal world, there would be a way to get it so someone could eat it.
PHOENIX: Yeah, right. If we don’t, then the insects will. It’s not going to be wasted.
Right, it’s circle of life, to quote Lion King, you know what I mean?
PHOENIX: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Completely switching subjects. I’m sure you’ve been offered a number of interesting things. Do you live with regret in decisions that you’ve made, or once you turn down a role, do you sort of say, “That’s it, it’s out of my system.” I’m sure you must have turned something down that went on to be, and you saw the person’s performance, and you’re like, “Oh fuck, I should have done that,” or does that never work with you?
PHOENIX: Not because of that. Anytime that happens, I go, “Yeah, it’s really good. I wouldn’t have done that. He was meant to do it.” I never see a performance, go like, “That was great. Fuck, I wish I would have done it.” There’s one movie that I wish I would have done, but I’m not going to tell you what it is. One day, one day I will.
Let me ask you this question, was it in the last five years?
It’s further back.
PHOENIX: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Got it, okay. One day, down the road, I’ll get an answer out of you.
PHOENIX: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
I’ve spoken to people that say, “Look, once I turn it down, I’ve mentally reached the point where I don’t want to do it, so whatever happens after that.” Some people say, “I live with constant regret and indecision.”
PHOENIX: There’s one movie, but it wasn’t because of the … It was very good, and the actor was very good in it. I never could have, what he did was better than anything I would have done. I turned it down because I kind of judged what I thought was going to be the process of making the movie, and I was wrong about that. I regret that. I regret not being more open.
It was one of those bigger movies then, that maybe turned into something better?
PHOENIX: (laughs) Mm-hmm (affirmative).
I get it. I’m going to go back to this, I brought it up a little bit at the beginning, and I know you’ve been asked this. There has been a lot of talk about you possibly being in a one-off superhero movie with Todd Phillips, playing an iconic role. I guess I just sort of want to know is there any smoke to that fire, or is that fire completely off base?
PHOENIX: What does that mean?
There’s a lot of talk about Todd Phillips making an 80s movie about the origins of the Joker, you know the Batman villain. I’m just curious if there’s any smoke to that fire, or if you really don’t know anything about it?
PHOENIX: I don’t know really. I don’t know.
Sure. Do you know who Todd Phillips is?
PHOENIX: He did …