Joaquin Phoenix Let Out the ‘Most Intense, Guttural’ Scream to ‘Humiliate’ Himself Before ‘Beau Is Afraid’ Take

"Once that's happened, you can't look any more stupid than you do now," Phoenix said of loosening up on set.
Joaquin Phoenix in Beau Is Afraid
Joaquin Phoenix in "Beau Is Afraid"

Joaquin Phoenix wasn’t afraid to do something “fucking stupid” on set.

The Oscar winner detailed his process for loosening up before a one-shot sequence in “Beau Is Afraid” during reshoots.

“It got me spinning in a panic,” Phoenix admitted while in conversation with “Beau Is Afraid” writer-director Ari Aster for The A24 Podcast. “[I’m a] little reluctant to say this, but because it sounds so fucking stupid and just like actor shit, but I remember, and I was thinking, what I did before was I did a scene, but I wasn’t really volatile. I didn’t really put myself out there. I was still nervous. In some way, I was controlling a little bit. I was controlling what people thought about me. I didn’t want to let people down.”

He continued, “I remember just realizing I had to do something that was fucking stupid, and I just so didn’t want to do it, but I just knew. And I just started screaming, just the most intense guttural pain scream that I could before we were shooting sitting there because I had to just fully humiliate myself. And then just go like, OK, well once that’s happened, you can’t look any more stupid than you do now.”

The “Joker” star added to Aster, “I don’t know why, but I just was overcome with this need to do that. And I think it probably made you uncomfortable. We weren’t in the same room. You were on the monitor, but I have a feeling that you got very uncomfortable.”

Aster replied that he intuitively understood Phoenix’s technique at the time.

“I remember knowing what you were doing. It felt to me like you were kind of trying to scream yourself out of the state you were in. It didn’t actually feel like even a take. It somehow felt like you were trying to break out of something,” the “Midsommar” auteur said. “And it was shocking in a way that was exciting, I think, because it did jar everybody. And I felt like it was good because the energy in the room did suddenly become both alert and disturbed.”

Phoenix agreed, replying, “I think that’s what we were trying to get at. It’s like somebody that is in a disturbed state in that moment, and it’s not one emotion that they’re having as manifesting. It is something very hard to pinpoint in some ways what the person is feeling precisely, right?”

Aster replied, “That was sort of a revelation, for me, to learn that’s how you worked. Because I was expecting before we went into this, for you to be less technical in that what you do looks to me so often to be completely spontaneous and completely un-worked out. And so I was preparing before we shot the film to be ready to just have everything upended and that was a really exciting thing to find that you were so intentional. I don’t know, not to break the magic of it, but for me to find that you were able to do things so many times over was really kind of shocking to me.”

Aster previously recalled Phoenix passing out on set during the final week of production. An “intense” scene involving Phoenix’s onscreen mother Patti LuPone led to Phoenix fainting.

“All the sudden, he fell out of frame, and I was really pissed because it was a really good take,” Aster previously said. “It felt confusing, so I went around the corner to the monitor, and he was collapsed. He fainted. And I knew that it was bad because he was letting people touch him. People were tending to him, and he was allowing it, and he was very confused. He fainted.”

During the A24 podcast, Aster further detailed the on-set experience with Phoenix.

“This has already kind of blown up in my face for starting to talk about this. But I don’t think I was aware of how much you were putting your body through, how exhausted you were, and how rough the shoot was for you until what happened near the end of the shoot with Patti,” Aster told Phoenix. “Where we were on her, I don’t want to say what the scene is because it’s a spoiler, but it was an intense scene for both of you, but the coverage was on her. So it was a shot that was on her, and your hand is in frame, and you were helping her through it by basically, you talking her through holding her breath through the take. But you were holding your breath just in solidarity. I don’t know, just to help.”

Aster added, “That was the bad sign, was that you were allowing that kind of attention, because you would never allow that kind of doting. You were really accepting it, and you looked worried. You didn’t know where you were. You really fainted.”

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