Director laments 'perfectionist' Phoenix's decision to quit
Director James Gray has paid tribute to retiring actor Joaquin Phoenix in a touching magazine article - branding the star "a true perfectionist".
The filmmaker, who most recently worked with Phoenix on new movie Two Lovers, admits he was saddened to hear of the star's plans to switch to a career in rap music.
In the MovieMaker Magazine piece, Gray hails Phoenix for his professionalism - and confesses he's secretly hoping the actor will have a change of heart about his future plans.
He writes, "Joaquin Phoenix announced his retirement recently, and though I was profoundly disappointed, I cant say I was surprised. Joaquin is best described as a mercurial person, so theres a chance he might yet change his mind (selfishly, I hope he does). But his decision is consistent with the person he is and was and always will be.
"Joaquin doesnt care about anything but the work, and even then he cares only about process - never the product (he doesnt even watch his own movies). The young man gave acting everything he had. Perhaps he just ran out of gas. I know now how hard it is to find a true original like him, and that for a time I simply got lucky."
Gray recalls their first project together, 2000's The Yards, with fondness - even though they spent the majority of the time shouting at each other.
He adds, "I seem to remember a whole lot of torment and angst and yelling and screaming. But I also remember consistently being amazed by the emotional depth of the then-24-year-old. I loved his feral unpredictability; he seemed ready to explode at any minute.
"He was hard on himself - a true perfectionist - though just as often, his fury was directed at me. I didnt care. We had one thing in common and that was a total commitment to the work."
But the pair went on to develop a close friendship, and Gray is still struggling to come to terms with Phoenix's decision to quit Hollywood: "Forgive me, but I have trouble accepting this retirement thing. I need Joaquins moments of authentic heartbreak, of unfiltered emotion, of poetic humanity. Joaquin shares my passion for exploring the melancholy movements of life, the sad awareness of times ruthless march; and he far surpasses me in emotional intellect, always ready to recognise genuine tenderness and reject all artifice. He has embraced an elegant, higher truth.
"At the end of Two Lovers, Joaquin seemed simultaneously exhausted and bored. Hed left most of us in the dust long ago. Perhaps thats why hes done with acting: When you can do it all yourself and your genius has outgrown the mediocrity of others, why bother?"
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