Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Yes, David Letterman knew that Joaquin Phoenix was not really a crazy rapper

We’re through the looking glass of I’m Still Here, where all of your preconceived notions—about whether Joaquin Phoenix’s performance-art stunt was fake or, like, really really fake, to the point where forcing everyone to pretend as though it were not fake became increasingly tiresome at every stage—have been totally upended, but there are still a few revelations at hand. For instance, Phoenix’s infamous interview with David Letterman, which first introduced a wide audience to Phoenix’s mumbly Joe would-be rap star character, has now been revealed to be a joke that even Letterman himself was in on. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to one of Letterman’s writers, Bill Scheft, who said:

Dave knew about it and Dave loved it because he could play along. It was great television. But I will take credit for the line, ‘I think I owe Farrah Fawcett an apology.’ That line was mine. I gave that to him during the break. I’ve told people that [everyone was in on the joke], and not only don’t people believe me, they tell me that I’m wrong and that [Phoenix] is a schizophrenic and he needs help and he’s going to end up like his brother [River, who died of a drug overdose in 1993]. I said no. I saw the segment notes. It’s an act. I saw Ben Affleck’s brother taping the whole thing from offstage.


Of course, this probably isn’t news to anyone who paid attention to the end of the segment, when Phoenix stands and seemingly breaks character, removing his sunglasses and giving Letterman an animated, “Good job!” But for those hoping that there was some lingering element of Phoenix and Affleck’s film that wasn’t scripted, that seems increasingly unlikely. Not that it particularly matters at this point, of course, as we’ve apparently all agreed to move on to discussing Phoenix’s acting and the film’s effectiveness as a work of art—which is fine, but the decision to reveal every single aspect of I’m Still Here’s artifice before most people have even seen it continues to be sort of baffling. Next thing you know, they’ll be telling us that Sean “Diddy” Combs was just kidding when he said he believed Phoenix was a “for real” rapper, and that we simply could not take.