Joaquin Phoenix has explained his two-year hiatus from acting, saying he went through a period where he did not even want to read scripts.
The actor, 43, who has taken on the role of Jesus in new film Mary Magdalene, said when he first decided to return to work there were no projects that interested him, before he ended up working back-to-back on four films including the biblical story, and Lynne Ramsay’s new film You Were Never Really Here.
He said: “I’ve been super fortunate the last few years, I’ve worked with some amazing filmmakers and that’s always inspiring, but I didn’t work for two years before I worked on Lynne’s movie. Mostly when I work or don’t work it’s because there aren’t projects I want to work on. And there are times also when I just say, ‘I don’t want to read anything, and I’m just going to take six months’, and that’s what happened. I’d taken a year off, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for a year, and then I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to work’, and then there was nothing that I wanted to do for a year. And then it was really strange because it just went from nothing to these four movies that I couldn’t say no to. It just happened that way. I’d never done that much but I think working with the filmmakers and the actors was so inspiring, so that fuelled me.”
Phoenix said it was important to forget other people’s expectations of him when he was taking on the role of Jesus in Mary Magdalene.
He said: “When you first start, so many people have so many different expectations, and you imagine what the expectations are, but every film that I do, there’s a point where I just say, ‘Well this is mine now, and I have to find a way to internalise this and just to have this experience’.
“I can’t perform other people’s expectations. So I think that was part of it and discoveries that we made as we went along, and sometimes you just react to the environment and the other actors, and it makes you look at a scene differently.”
The film tells the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection from the perspective of Magadalene, played by Rooney Mara, and dismisses the traditional view that she was a prostitute.
Phoenix said: “For a lot of people, faith is really important and I couldn’t help but think of young girls that are religious and have felt like their two examples of them in the Bible are either the virgin or the whore.
“And even if you’re not conscious of that, subconsciously it has to affect you and the way that you navigate the world and navigate your faith.
“And it seems like such a f**ked up thing to do to somebody.”
Mary Magdalene is out in UK cinemas now.