Joaquin Phoenix thanks Letterman for his "beat down"

Wed Sep 22, 2010 8:33pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A clean-shaven Joaquin Phoenix dressed in a suit and tie appeared on David Letterman's talk show Wednesday night and thanked the host for giving him a verbal "beat down" when the two last appeared together.

Phoenix, Oscar-nominated for his role as Johnny Cash in 2005 film "Walk the Line," also apologized to the talk show host for pulling a stunt as a rambling hip-hop performer on the "Late Show with David Letterman" in 2009, stunning audiences and Letterman with his bizarre behavior.

"I think that you've interviewed many, many people and I assumed that you would know the difference between a character and a real person, so -- but I apologize. I didn't -- I hope I didn't offend you in any way," Phoenix said in a transcript from Letterman's interview that will air Wednesday night.

For almost two years, Phoenix has been carrying out a hoax on his fans by telling anybody who would listen that he had given up Hollywood movies for a career as a hip-hop singer.

He grew a long, scraggly beard, put on weight and started rapping in front of live audiences. But it was all an act for a documentary film about his "transformation" called "I'm Still Here," that was directed by Phoenix's brother-in-law and fellow actor Casey Affleck.

The movie was released earlier this month in U.S. theaters and Affleck admitted last week in the New York Times that it was all an act. "It's a terrific performance, it's the performance of his career," he told the newspaper.

As part of his act, Phoenix appeared on Letterman's "Late Show" in February 2009 behind dark sunglasses and bushy beard, he mumbled answers to the talk show hosts' questions and, at times, appeared to have his mind elsewhere.

Since the hoax was revealed, speculation has arisen that Letterman had been in on the joke. But in Wednesday's interview, the pair tried to put those rumors to rest.

Letterman asked Phoenix directly if he knew anything about the act, to which Phoenix responded, "No."

(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Jill Serjeant)