When Joaquin Phoenix appeared onscreen in one of the lead roles of Gus Van Sant’s 1995 film To Die For, he was still widely deemed a lesser Phoenix. He only had a handful of supporting roles under his belt, and the world was still mourning the death and lost potential of his brother River two years earlier. However, the Buck Henry-scripted dark comedy was a critical success, and the 21-year-old was spotlighted for his performance. Now, more than two decades later, a much older and more seasoned Phoenix is considered one of the top actors of his generation. All this to say, casting Phoenix in his new film was probably a much easier decision for Van Sant to make this time around.
In Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot—based on the autobiography of John Callahan—Phoenix will play a man who was paralyzed in a car accident at the age of 21 and then went onto channel his frustrations with life as a quadriplegic into a successful career as a cartoonist. The project has been bouncing around Hollywood since the book’s publication in 1989, with the late Robin Williams at one point attached as the lead.
Phoenix and Van Sant have apparently been trying to reunite for a while now, and in an alternate-reality version of last year’s The Sea Of Trees, Phoenix moped around in the woods instead of Matthew McConaughey. It’s probably for the best that we are where we are in the multiverse.