Why Joaquin Phoenix Told Me To “Take A Hike!”

Joaquin Phoenix

By JAMES SWANWICK

I made a big mistake.

I pushed Hollywood movie star Joaquin Phoenix too far.

In 2005, I interviewed Phoenix via phone for his then latest movie, Walk the Line.

I still have nightmares about the interview.

I wanted to get really good quotes from him for Loaded magazine in the UK, which liked sexy, controversial interviews.

But I pushed the envelope. And lost.

If I were to interview movie funnyman Ben Stiller for a men's magazine like FHM or Maxim, my questions may be fun and light-hearted and I may try to coax fun and light-hearted answers from him.

If I was interviewing Ben Stiller for the New York Times or a similar newspaper, my questions might be more serious and in-depth in nature.

As journalists, we should always keep our publication or radio or TV show in mind when thinking of questions.

Below is an excerpt from the interview.

Take this as a lesson on how not to interview a celebrity:

ME: In Walk the Line,  your brother dies from a tragic accident. In real life, your own brother River died from a tragic accident. Did you draw on that experience with losing a brother when you were making the movie?

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: Absolutely not. That’s exploitive and I wouldn’t do that for a fucking movie. There is a vast difference between your brother dying when you are seven years old and when you are 18.

ME: Is it frustrating seeing these TV programs rebroadcasting the calls you made to 911 on the night River died? Is that frustrating? What goes through your mind when that is brought up?

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: I realize there is nothing I can really do about it so I don’t pay much attention to it. It’s really their problem,  if they want to bring that kind of thing into the world. It’s not a part of my life.

ME: What goes through your mind when you drive past the Viper Room when you are in LA now? Have you been back to the Viper Room?

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: Dude,  dude. Take a hike.

ME: All right, sorry man,  I shouldn’t push it.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: It is amazing to me that I just said that and you would do that. That’s the epitome of callousness. I can’t even fathom it. Whether it’s one’s job or not…

ME: I apologize unreservedly, man. I apologize unreservedly. You’re right, it is. I totally accept that. What you just said is absolutely right and I can’t do anything but apologize enough. I’m very sorry.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX:  All right.

Man, I felt lousy. In my bid to generate really interesting quotes, I pushed the boundaries too far.

I was pushing him to give me great quotes about his brother's death. In hindsight, it was a low act.

I shouldn't have done it. I went for it and I failed. And I upset someone in the process.

I felt guilty and I still regret it.

Have you ever asked an inappropriate question of someone? Tell us your story in the comment box, below.

If you'd like to learn how to become a journalist yourself, check out the Insider Journalism Secrets program.

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