Joaquin Phoenix and Gus Van Sant May Reunite for Biopic of Cartoonist John Callahan
Back in 1995, Joaquin Phoenix didn’t even exist. That’s not entirely figurative, either — the noted actor was going by “Leaf Phoenix” back then, an ostensible nod to his brother River, already a star and deceased by that point. (The Phoenix family: where changing your name from the original “Joaquin” to “Leaf” constitutes an effort to fit in.) He got his first credit under his birth name Joaquin that year, playing a rube of a student named Jimmy who falls for the seductive charms of a schoolteacher played by Nicole Kidman. The film was To Die For; the director who made Pheonix a star was Gus Van Sant.
That was almost 20 years ago, or in Hollywood-time, several eternities. It’s in a changed world that Phoenix and Van Sant are now considering a long-awaited reunion, according to a new exclusive from Variety. The actor and director are reportedly circling a project memorably titled Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, a biopic chronicling the life of provocateur cartoonist John Callahan. A quadriplegic following a car accident at age 21, Callahan shocked readers for decades with the crude cartoons he’d scratch out by clutching a writing implement with both hands. Focusing on the macabre, blackly humorous, profane, and obscene, Callahan courted a cult following and even landed a pair of TV shows before dying in 2010, never losing his singular artistic sensibility. Phoenix would portray the indefatigable artist, with Van Sant directing.
Van Sant last attempted to rope Phoenix in for The Sea of Trees, in the lead role that eventually went to Matthew McConaughey. (Judging by the reception for that film, Phoenix may have been wise to stay away.) Perhaps this go will be more successful in reuniting the two talents; if there’s anyone who can make a compelling performance without the use of their body, it’s probably Joaquin Phoenix. Assuming that Daniel Day-Lewis continues meditating on whatever mountaintop he’s been hiding out on for the last 4 years, that is.