Anyone who has any familiarity with the work of Joaquin Phoenix would probably guess that he isn’t the type of actor to hang around the set between shots, cracking wise and regaling cast and crew with tales of Hollywood adventures.
His intensity knob is always turned to 11, and that comes from a thorough immersion in whatever character he’s playing. The role as Freddie Quell in “The Master” was no exception.
“He totally threw himself into it 100%,” says producer JoAnne Sellar, who has worked with director Paul Thomas Anderson for years. “His dedication to it was complete, and he never kind of wavered from it.
“Freddie is somebody you’re afraid of on the one hand, but he can also be charming at times. That’s what Joaquin brought to the role: He’s unpredictable, and you never know what he’s going to do next. To do that, Joaquin basically kept to himself and focused on staying in the role as Freddie. He had discussions with Paul and the other actors, but he wasn’t one to hang around the set and joke around.”
Anderson described his two male leads in “The Master” — Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman — as “pretty inventive actors,” but added “Joaquin is more inventive than Phil.”
“Joaquin will have four great days where he can do no wrong and two of the most horrendous days acting,” the director says. “But it’s in the service of trying things.”