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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 09/ 9/2010

The Joaquin Phoenix film, 'I'm Still Here,' promotional timeline

By Sarah Anne Hughes

Posted by Sarah Anne Hughes

The new film "I'm Still Here," opening tomorrow, follows Joaquin Phoenix for a year and a half as he pursues a hip-hop career and confuses the entire world. Since the film, directed by the Oscar-nominee's brother-in-law Casey Affleck, was announced, there have been questions about the legitimacy of Phoenix's rapid transformation from suave actor to bearded hip-hop star.

Is this all performance art? A political statement? A legit documentary? Since ambiguity is a fundamental part of a film, direct promotion would have been tricky. Instead, the documentary/mockumentary/who-knows-what-this-is-umentary has been promoted through a series of mysterious and bizarre events that I have conveniently recapped here.

October 2008: Phoenix retires
At a Paul Newman charity benefit, Phoenix told "Extra!" that he was retiring from acting. "Yeah. I'm working on my music. I'm done. I've been through that," he said to the shocked reporter. Coincidentally, Casey Affleck was there when Phoenix made the statement and said, "I don't think he's kidding. He's got music and stuff." The seeds of promotion are planted.

January 2009: Phoenix raps
Phoenix gave his first public rap concert in Las Vegas in January 2009 to coincide with the announcement of the, at the time, unnamed documentary about his foray into music. It was also announced that Phoenix's debut album would be produced with help from hip-hop hype man Sean "Diddy" Combs. "This is me saying this is who I am. This is my story," the actor told People magazine before the event. Clips of the performance leaked onto YouTube and showed Phoenix doing a pretty poor job at rapping and falling off the stage. The clip of Phoenix's fall currently has almost 2 million hits.

February 2009: Phoenix goes on "Letterman"
Phoenix appeared on the "Late Show With David Letterman." While he may have been there to promote his film "Two Lovers," Phoenix's strange behavior gave "I'm Still Here" the promotional advantage. The interview that ensued is ridiculously uncomfortable to watch. Letterman pokes fun at his awkward demeanor, while the audience laughs. The over-the-top terrible Letterman interview is featured in the film.

August 2010: The trailer is released
In August, the first trailer for "I'm Still Here" was released and answered zero questions about the film's authenticity.

September 2010: "I'm Still Here" premieres at Venice Film Festival; Diddy clip is released; the first reviews are in
"I'm Still Here" premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September. Affleck told reporters that the film was not fake in a "Candid Camera" sort of way, but declined to discuss the specifics of the film. Phoenix didn't attend the premiere, but was in Venice at the time.

After the film's premiere, a clip showing Phoenix discussing his music plans with Diddy was released. It's kind of funny to watch Diddy schooling Phoenix on music production, but it doesn't answer any questions about Phoenix's real intentions. It did, however, spark my interest in seeing the film.

Early reviews indicate that the film doesn't clearly reveal itself as fact or fiction. Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald wrote, "If the movie is a fake, the filmmakers deserve Oscars for creativity." Roger Ebert, who gave the film a positive review, said he would be pretty peeved if the whole thing turned out to be a hoax. I think Mr. Ebert's going to be upset.

Sept. 24: Phoenix will talk with Jimmy Kimmel
In the what promised to be the film's crowning promotional moment, Phoenix will appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Sept. 24, presumably to talk about the film. Will the beard be gone? Will Phoenix confess the entire thing was performance art? Will he return to acting? Will we ever get a straight answer? Only time will tell.

By Sarah Anne Hughes  | September 9, 2010; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Movies  
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