These Scenes In Joaquin Phoenix’s C’mon C’mon Were Unscripted, So The Actor Improvised

Joaquin Phoenix is an Academy Award-winning Hollywood legend, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. His peculiar and mysterious persona makes one wonder what the man is like in real life, and it turns out that if you’d like to see for yourself, all you have to do is check out his latest film, C’mon C’mon.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a radio journalist who interviews various young people throughout the film about their hopes, dreams and general perspective on life. Well, as it turns out, none of this was scripted. These are real interviews with real people that Phoenix himself conducted. C’mon C’mon writer/director Mike Mills recently told us how Phoenix’s authenticity and warmth allowed these kids to open up to him:

They all were not scripted. All of those kids are not actors. they're from the different cities that we shot in and usually connected to a very special school that we kind of connected with, like the Boggs School in Detroit or Homer Pless in New Orleans. And Joaquin is really good at doing interviews and just really connecting and listening and being there and sort of empowering the person and so fully ready, willing and able to hear whatever they have to say. It's what makes them speak so freely. It makes them speak so unguardedly.

For those of you who have not seen C'mon C'mon, Mike Mills is absolutely right. One of the highlights of the flick is seeing these authentic moments where kids are touching on some real-life topics. Knowing that Joaquin Phoenix himself was the one who was able to help them open up and truly exist at that moment is charming. 

This moment launched us into a conversation about whether or not Joaquin Phoenix was technically “acting” in those scenes. Was he being Johnny, or was he essentially just being Joaquin? Mike Mills attempted to explain the nuance and layers involved in delivering such a performance:

I don't even know the answer to that because he kind of can't act in a way. He has to be, like, authentically present for that person to have that conversation come to life.

Joaquin Phoenix’s co-stars Gaby Hoffman and Woddy Norman disagreed with Mills, debating the Oscar nominee’s implication that acting in itself isn’t being “authentically present.” Of course, the debate was all in good fun and full of laughter, ending with Hoffman saying they were going to “teach Mike Mills a thing or two.” You can see the full clip in the video at the top of this article. 

C’mon C’mon is in theaters right now. As for Joaquin Phoenix, there are plenty of exciting projects on the way, so stay tuned. If you’re anxiously awaiting his next release and pondering what to watch, we’ve got you covered.

Jeff McCobb
Senior Video Producer

Jeff is a film buff who is ridden with gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he spends his time complaining about Los Angeles.