Joaquin Phoenix interview

He played Johnny Cash and now Joaquin Phoenix stars in compelling thriller We Own The Night

A two-time Oscar nominee, for Gladiator and Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix reunites the team behind The Yards for We Own The Night, a compelling 1980s-set thriller in which he and Mark Wahlberg play brothers on opposite sides of the law.

For We Own The Night, you reunite not only with Mark Wahlberg from The Yards, but also director James Gray. Was this always the plan?

After The Yards, we stayed friends and we had talked about wanting to work together again. I’ve grown to recognise that it’s a thing that directors do as you’re leaving to make it easier. They’ll say, ‘We’ll work together again’ – it’s like breaking up, when you go, ‘Let’s be friends!’

Gray says We Own The Night is partly inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV. What do you think?

I don’t know! I didn’t read Henry IV. I don’t know Shakespeare! I’m not a serious actor. Directors always make references, and I go, ‘Ah, I’ll check it out’ and I never ever do! I’m incredibly lazy!

You haven’t really done a romantic comedy since Inventing the Abbots. How come?

I wouldn’t feel satisfied being on set every day doing a romantic comedy – I’d be bored to death. For me, I guess I’m the acting equivalent of somebody that jumps off buildings and parachutes. For me, I’d rather have an intense experience than not.

Do you often find roles affect you personally?

I feel an obligation to set the record straight. Actors that say they’re affected by something, that it changes their life, that they take it home with them, they’re just trying to get nominated for an Oscar! The truth is, it doesn’t really affect you that much. Things are rarely as exciting or dramatic as we make them out to be in the press.

Talking of which, how have you managed to keep a level head in the crazy world of celebrity?

For me, it’s a conscious effort to not be affected by those things. If you walk into a room and one hundred people say, ‘You are a lovely, beautiful person’, who isn’t going to be affected by that? But you have to tell yourself not to value that. You have to tell yourself – or at least I do – to not become accustomed to hearing applause in any way, because I think that’s dangerous.

We Own The Night opens on 14 December.

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