Joaquin Phoenix on Inherent Vice

Joaquin PhoenixWhat did you like about the character of Doc Sportello?

Here’s one of the things I love first about Doc. His girlfriend Shasta’s gone missing and he goes to his friend Fritz’s place, just panicked. Fritz opens up his computer and it’s ARPANET, the precursor to the internet.

He’s explaining that there are all these computers around the world that communicate with each other and if anybody’s heard about where Shasta is, this computer will know. And the first thing that occurs to Doc is ‘does it know where I can score weed?’

You’ve played some great characters. What’s your method for choosing a role?

I used to try and have a really fixed idea of what my character is and it was a really difficult process. I realised I was making it more difficult than it needs to be. Now I try things that you know won’t work or seem to be out of character but sometimes through that you end up illuminating something else that you never thought of and you never really expected and you don’t even understand what it is.

Months later, years later, you look back and say ‘oh, that’s what that fucking scene was about’. But I don’t think you need to know necessarily what it is at the time.

You’ve worked with some great directors. Could you become a director some time?

I tried, I did videos about eight years ago. They were so bad. I just do not have what it takes at all.

You didn’t enjoy it?

This is the horrible thing, I did enjoy it. I did what I saw in my head, I fucking did it. Then I realised what was in my head wasn’t very good.

Some of your co-stars say you have a good sense of humour and can be a bit of a goofball.

Yeah, I don’t know why it’s taken so long to realise that. I always felt like that was really obvious. But I’ve made a lot of dramatic movies and part of it is that you’re stuck with your face.

When I was younger I’d go in for auditions and say ‘what about that part?’ And they’d go ‘no you play the kid that’s being beaten’ It’s like when you go to school and you think you’re going to date the captain of the football team and life goes ‘no no no, that’s not for you. You’re out here in this section’. It’s kind of like that with acting. It takes a lot of work to explore all the different sides of yourselves.

So would you like to do a zany comedy?

I read something recently that was so funny and so much fun. It’s an Adam Sandler movie and it’s so goofy and hilarious. I was so tempted to do it but I just feel like this face is not going to be able to pull that off.