ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m intrigued by actors who play roles like this, which are incredibly intense and emotional, and I wonder how much of that role gets into your head — how do you go home at night after scenes that are brutal? Is it easy to walk away after you’re done or do you live with the character for a while?
JOAQUIN PHOENIX: There’s no way to answer this without sounding like a f—ing jerk. I don’t know, I always hate, just, like [how] I was affected by this. Every movie, you just basically marinate in the research until it’s like impossible — if you read about one subject matter for weeks or months, of course it’s going to affect you. But I don’t … hopefully it’s not a conscious … I always feel like performances are bad when I see too many conscious decisions, like actors trying to show things, so I hope I didn’t do that, I tried not to show anything. But inevitably you’re going to be affected by this, it’s a brutal world but to be honest. There’s also times where you’re sitting around between takes and me and Lynne are just like telling each other jokes, so it just becomes your life and I think that was part of the thing — when does Joe find humor in things or what is his relationship with his colleagues? It’s like, everything is … you’re seeing a snippet of somebody’s life but they’re like a full human. There’s times that they sit around and watch a f—ing movie, they eat food, so it just becomes your life for a brief period of time.
I imagine you probably get asked a lot about whether you have a preference for dark, tormented characters who live on the edge and what draws you to them, but you’re also just a person who probably likes comedies as well as dramas. It’s trying to understand why you’re drawn to these types of characters.
Yeah, I don’t know, it’s funny because I look at the four movies that I’ve made this year or last year and I wouldn’t say that they were like all intense dramas, and so for me, it feels like the impact for a finished film feels particularly tense, but I didn’t … I don’t know why, to be honest. I didn’t really have the feeling of when I read this script that I have to do this movie. I feel like, it was something that grew and started presenting itself to me as I started researching it and spending time with Lynne. I don’t really know what drew me to the movie — I think maybe it was one of the first times where I was, I guess maybe I was kind of interested in working with Lynne. I think maybe what it is, it’s the not knowing that attracts me. It’s something that seems like so, a world that I don’t understand and it seems so distant from me, and maybe I want to find a way in — what is this puzzle, what can be solved, what can be figured out? I don’t know why, but I don’t sit back going “I want to do this” — I don’t know, I don’t understand why I want to do it.