This was one of my favorite interviews for Yahoo Movies ever. I was passionately in love with James Gray’s ‘The Immigrant’ and proud that I at least kept Phoenix at the table for most of our interview despite his clear desperation to escape like a kindergartner anticipating recess.
Actor Joaquin Phoenix and director James Gray have one of Hollywood’s most successful codependent relationships. The pair have been collaborating for more than 15 years, first with the city-corruption tale The Yards (2000), then on dramas We Own the Night (2007) and Two Lovers (2008). Their fourth joint effort, the lush historical tale The Immigrant, opens May 16  in limited release and features Phoenix as a hustler and pimp in 1920s New York who lures a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant (Marion Cotillard) into his girlie show.
Yahoo Movies sat down with Gray and Phoenix (who next stars in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice) in the courtyard of the Greenwich Hotel in New York City, so that a mercurial Phoenix — his hair a modified mullet dusted with gray — could inhale American Spirits and exhale asides. Not surprisingly, Gray did a lot of the talking, answering questions with a scholar’s precision and prompting responses from Phoenix that gave a good sense of their long-nurtured creative relationship, one that has become brotherly in every sense of the word.
Did you meet cute?
James Gray: We met at a restaurant [in New York City] called Piadina. Joaquin apparently read the script to The Yards. I had seen To Die For. And I said, “Who is this guy?” And that is when I said we should meet. I liked him instantly.
And, Joaquin, had you seen James’  debut, Little Odessa?
Gray: He didn’t like it.
Joaquin Phoenix: I didn’t.
I love it.
Gray: Did you hear that? I really do appreciate that.
Phoenix: [Deadpans] I don’t like her taste.