"The Master" has shot to the top of this season's Oscar list after earning Anderson the directing prize at the Venice Film Festival, where Phoenix and Hoffman also shared the best-actor award.
Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a Navy veteran drifting without a rudder until he falls in with Lancaster Dodd (frequent Anderson collaborator Hoffman, an Oscar winner for "Capote"). Dodd is founder of The Cause, a cult whose adherents believe they can access memories from past lives to help achieve balance and tranquility.
Much of "I'm Still Here" was unscripted, and Phoenix said the improvisation he had to do in that film was great preparation for capturing the volatility of Freddie as he swings back and forth from devotion to disdain for Dodd.
"I'm Still Here" ''really allowed me to be more open as an actor, and going into this film, Paul seemed to not only allow but encourage a real change in behavior from moment to moment. It really suited the character, because he's so mercurial in a way, and you're not really sure of his motivation," Phoenix said. "I don't really like controlled performances, and so that I think was really helpful for me."
He's hurled himself back into acting, with upcoming roles in Spike Jonze's as-yet-untitled film, which features "The Master" co-star Amy Adams, and teaming with "Two Lovers" director James Gray for their fourth movie together.
So Phoenix is still here, with no plans to retire.
"The joke was that Casey and I after every movie say, like, we're quitting, and we realize that we have no other skills and it's something that we love to do," Phoenix said. "And it's absurd to think of retiring from something at 35 which doesn't really have a retirement age. It's not like it's basketball and your knees go. We just felt that it was a built-in joke and thought it was funny."
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