Joaquin Phoenix drew boos for his strange and rude behavior while promoting The Master, his first movie in years.
Appearing at a news conference ahead of the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Phoenix displayed erratic behavior, leaving the dais and even lighting up a cigarette, The Associated Press reported. At one point he left for two minutes before returning, and throughout the press conference he only responded to one question.
Joaquin Phoenix later drew boos when he stopped his photo session after just 14 seconds. Throughout the awkward event his co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman and the film’s director Paul Thomas Anderson did their best to ignore his antics.
“I’ll just say, I’ll say I don’t think, maybe Paul gives, or gave me, the impression I had leeway. But I don’t think I ever did,” Phoenix said at the event. “I don’t know where it comes from and I don’t care.”
It was unclear if Joaquin Phoenix’s behavior was genuine or if the whole thing was just a stunt. Phoenix appeared in a 2010 documentary directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck that documented his downward spiral, but the film led to speculation that it was all a publicity stunt.
In his first return to the big screen in years, Joaquin Phoenix plays a tortured World War II veteran who falls under the spell of a charismatic cult leader played by Hoffman. The cult leader is loosely based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, though Anderson said the movie is more about the relationship between the two men than the movement.
“The narrative is just driven by these two guys, and their love for each other,” Anderson said.
Joaquin Phoenix’s behavior wasn’t the only thing that left people talking at the Venice festival. Critics have given only lukewarm reviews to the movie, with Time calling it boring and a disappointment to fans waiting for a follow-up to Anderson’s last movie, There Will Be Blood.