David Letterman welcomed a slim and shaved Joaquin Phoenix back on The Late Show after a year and half, saying that on February 11, 2009, “he looked like he was sitting on a piece of cheese and swallowed a live mouse.” Letterman wasn’t in on the act, but said, “I’d be half a dumbbell not to be in on it,” he said. “He was a side of beef in a suit. It’s like he brought out the heavy bag and turned me loose. What else could I do?” Letterman played into Phoenix’s hands, he told him: “You came out looking for a beat-down and you got one.”
Filmmaker Casey Affleck got mad at Phoenix, he said, after the bearded and paunchy actor broke out of character for a moment, removed his shades and thanked Letterman on his way off the stage. The talk show host probably wanted that other guest back, because he was more entertaining than the “real” Phoenix, who smiled engagingly and looked genuinely worried when Letterman insisted on getting paid $1 million for the use of five minutes from the show in a film that was clearly not a documentary, I’m Still Here (in theaters). “I don’t have $1 million in my bank account,” Phoenix protested.
Letterman asked if Phoenix knew what a career risk he was taking. “I knew there was that risk–I’m not sure I have that much of a career now–I was willing to take that risk,” Phoenix said. Letterman asked if it was worth it. “!00 %,” said Phoenix. (CBS video below.)