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Joaquin Phoenix’s Hip-Hop Doc Gets Public Premiere

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Is it a hoax or not? That was the big question when Joaquin Phoenix‘s hip-hop odyssey ‘I’m Still Here’ premiered at the Venice Film Festival Saturday night (Sept. 4). Phoenix, who has been a recluse since retiring from acting and starting the project, was a no-show at the premiere, but director Casey Affleck was there to take questions and was adamant that everything in the movie is real.

So, what actually happens? Apparently, Phoenix was legitimately sick of his acting career and, as a means to try something new and challenging, decided to really go off and become a rapper. It turns out that’s pretty difficult for most people. The documentary follows Phoenix as he suffers embarrassment, followed by failure and a series of potential nervous breakdowns.

At one point, Phoenix tells Mos Def that he’s trying to do a “hip-hop ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ kind of thing” to a nearly blank stare, yet the worst moment comes from his encounter with Diddy. After fretting about what to call him (Puffy? Sean? Diddy?), Phoenix asks what Combs would like to hear from his demos. “A hit,” Diddy responds before listening to a few songs and telling Phoenix that he’s not even close to the point where he’s ready to be in the studio with producers of his ilk.

All of this occurred just days before Phoenix had his now-legendary meltdown appearance on ‘The Late Show With David Letterman.’ “I’m just gonna be a goddamn joke forever,” he says after the show, climbing into a bush in Central Park and crying. So, yes, it’s pretty ridiculous, but it sounds like there’s a few moments of genuinely interesting behind-the-scenes music industry footage worth checking out.

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