Joaquin Phoenix delivered one of the year’s best performances in Inherent Vice, for a movie too few people saw. Even less people saw The Immigrant, even though Phoenix was – again – amazing. Prior to those two 2014 parts, Phoenix completely crushed it in both Her and The Master. Basically, if I had a bankroll, I’d tell Joaquin Phoenix to go do whatever the hell he wanted… even though his next idea sounds crazy, bizarro bonkers.
The eccentric actor was speaking with The Guardian in support of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which imagines Phoenix as the stoned-out SoCal private investigator "Doc" Sportello. But the conversation swirled around like marijuana smoke in the breeze, touching on so many aspects of the film industry. And when Phoenix talked about a project he’d like to do, he spoke about doing a superhero version of The Last Temptation of Christ, where Jesus is given the option to step down from the cross, start a family with Mary Magdalene, and live a happy life.
Martin Scorsese adapted Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988 from a controversial screenplay by Paul Schrader. It looked like this:
Phoenix doesn’t come right out and say he’d like to tackle that material, but he says he’d do a franchise around this material from the perspective of a superhero film, or a hero franchise. Phoenix explains:
In a superhero movie it’s typically good guy and bad guy, and bad guy attacks. Well, in real life evil seduces."
This idea isn’t quite as ludicrous as it sounds. Superhero movies, of course, are the meat in every studio’s sandwich, the grunt-work features that pay the bills and keep the lights on at night. But Biblical movies made a comeback in 2014, from Darren Aronofsky’s Noah ($101.2 million domestically) to Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings ($64.3M in the States, and $252 million globally). When placed in the hands of creative people, Biblical stories can soar. What if Phoenix were to convince PTA or Her director Spike Jonze to approach this material with him? Would it make you more interested to see what their collaboration could produce?
Then again, as the above clip reminds us, Joaquin Phoenix is fully capable of pulling a year-long stunt just to punk us into believing that he’s a gangster rapper now, so maybe his dream of doing a superhero Jesus franchise should be devoured with the requisite grains of salt.