Did Joaquin Phoenix just lose (or win) Oscar race with rant about campaigning?

Joaquin Phoenix is that rarity in Hollywood — an actor who does not want an Oscar on his mantle. Or does he? 

When asked by Elvis Mitchell in Interview magazine about his views on the Oscars, the two-time nominee said: “I’m just saying that I think it’s bullshit. I think it’s total, utter bullshit, and I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t believe in it. It’s a carrot, but it’s the worst-tasting carrot I’ve ever tasted in my whole life. I don’t want this carrot. It’s totally subjective. Pitting people against each other … It’s the stupidest thing in the whole world.”

Phoenix is a frontrunner this year for Best Actor for his work in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s powerful new picture “The Master.” The two-time Oscar nominee earned critical raves for his portrayal of a lost soul who falls under the spell of a religious zealot (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

The two men shared the Best Actor prize at the Venice filmfest. While Hoffman is being positioned in the supporting race, Phoenix is a strong contender in the lead category. Our odds currently have him a solid second (at 14/5) behind Daniel Day Lewis for “Lincoln” who has odds of 17/10 to win a third Best Actor Oscar. Perhaps this renewed attention will boost Phoenix back into first place. 

Reflecting on his second Oscar bid in 2005, Phoenix revealed to Mitchell, “It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when ‘Walk the Line’ was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again. I don’t know how to explain it and it’s not like I’m in this place where I think I’m just above it but I just don’t ever want to get comfortable with that part of things.”

But could this all trash talk work in Phoenix’s favor? Academy voters have embraced other performers who were less than enthusiastic about the Oscars. Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress in 2009 for “Precious” despite not doing any gladhanding. Indeed, she even skipped the nominees luncheon which is a key stop on the campaign trail. 

And Katharine Hepburn won a record four Best Actress awards (out of 12 nominations) without ever attending the ceremony as a contender. She only showed up in 1973 to bestow the Thalberg award on her pal producer Lawrence Weingarten

Phoenix is following in the footsteps of three other men who disavowed the Academy Awards. In 1962, George C. Scott sent a telegram to the academy declining his Supporting Actor nomination for “The Hustler.” Three years earlier, he had stayed silent when nominated in that category for “Anatomy of a Murder.” He didn’t win either race. In 1970, Scott starred as WWII leader George S. Patton in Best Picture champ “Patton.” Despite his protests, in which he referred to the Oscars as “a two-hour meat parade,” voters still gave him the Best Actor prize. And they nominated him in that category again the following year for “The Hospital.”  

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In 1972, Marlon Brando won his second Best Actor award for his work in another Best Picture winner, “The Godfather.” In his stead, he sent along activist Sacheen Littlefeather to turn down the award, citing Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans. Brando was a contender again the next year for “Last Tango in Paris.” 

And in 1977, Woody Allen won Best Director for helming Best Picture champ “Annie Hall” and also picked up the Original Screenplay prize. He dissed the ceremony in favor of his standing gig playing clarinet in a jazz bar in Manhattan. The academy took no offence and has nominated him a record 15 times for Original Screenplay ( he won twice more for “Hannah and Her Sisters” in 1986 and last year for “Midnight in Paris”) as well as five more Best Director bids. 

5 thoughts on “Did Joaquin Phoenix just lose (or win) Oscar race with rant about campaigning?

  1. Since I hated The Master, If the Academy wants to ignore him while he ignores them, it will be just fine with me. Lots of great performances out there to honor instead.

  2. IIRC, Sean Penn used to snub the Oscars too — till he started winning them. It might be a negative some years, but the race right now is him vs. Daniel Day-Lewis, and Day-Lewis has a HUGE obstacle: No one has EVER won Best Actor three times, and I’m not convinced the Academy wants Day-Lewis to be the first. For now, I’m still betting on Phoenix over Day-Lewis.

  3. It’s a little early in the race to say who is going to win. We’ve had some late changes in the last three years, with the Hurt Locker winning over Avatar, The King’s Speech winning over the Social Network, Dujardin winning over Clooney, and in my opinion even Streep winning over Davis. Every time, the finally losing side was declared a sure winner some months earlier.
    But I’m looking forward to next years Academy Awards, because there are lots of strong perfomances out there, and Daniel Day-Lewis is such a terrific actor, that, if he really wins a third time, I’ll be all the more glad/gladder? for it.

  4. They could simply give him a nomination, but he’s not the only leading contender this year – that would be Daniel Day-Lewis. So, no, I don’t think that Oscar win for Joaquin is solid yet.

  5. Support for The Master is waning so I don’t think Phoenix’s comments matter in his chances at a win. The critics groups is going to be the next big factor in whether Phoenix can win or not. If Phoenix sweeps the critics Best Actor awards (which I think will be difficult given that Day-Lewis, Hawkes, and Washington will be in the mix), then I think people will begin to ask if he hurt his chances. It’s too early to tell. On a side note, I don’t think that it was merely a coincident that he made these comments right before the release of The Sessions and I think he may keep it up for about a month given the upcoming releases of Flight and Lincoln. I think it’s very clear that Phoenix is playing the only card he has left for a win.

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