We’ve been talking about Joaquin Phoenix’s descent into madness almost as long as YBMW has been in existence. When he first announced his retirement from acting in favor of his new rap career and then fell apart live on the Letterman show, people were already calling shenanigans at what they thought… and were hoping was all just an act. IN interview after interview, Phoenix proclaimed his innocence. This is who he was now and if you didn’t like it you could kiss off. It wasn’t long before the man who had just recently been nominated for an Oscar as Johnny Cash in “Walk The Line” had worn us down like the fat kid asking the pretty girl to the dance for the 100th time… we too finally became believers.

What happened over the next 2 years was a roller coaster of news reports, youtube videos and interviews that seems to document a life circling the drain. In fact, his brother in law, Casey Affleck (brother to Ben) was actually documenting the whole thing for his film, “I’m Still Here.” When it came out around a week ago here is what Roger Ebert had to say about it:

All of this is true. At least we must assume it is. If this film turns out to still be part of an elaborate hoax, I’m going to be seriously pissed. Actually, there are subtle signs it might be. The scene in Central Park: Is it a little too perfect dramatically? The scenes of cocaine sniffing, the nude parties including Joaquin’s assistant Antony Langdon and two hookers: Were they really possible with a director, cinematographer and sound man in the room? Would Casey Affleck release this devastating film with the acquiescence of his wife?

Apparently so. It exists, it was released, I’ve seen it, and Joaquin Phoenix, as the title assures is, is still there. One doubts he will be walking the red carpet if the film has a premiere. It documents a train wreck. A luxury train. One carrying Phoenix, his several personal assistants, his agent, his publicist, and apparently not one single friend who isn’t on salary. A train that flies off the tracks and tumbles into the abyss.

Well according to the story in this morning’s New York Times, Ebert is going to want to stick the thumb’s up he gave the movie right up Joaquin Phoenix’s butt.

In a new interview, Brother in law/ Director, Casey Affleck reveals that the entire thing was not so much of as hoax as much as it was… performance art.

Virtually none of it was real. Not even the opening shots, supposedly of Mr. Phoenix and his siblings swimming in a water hole in Panama. That, Mr. Affleck said, was actually shot in Hawaii with actors, then run back and forth on top of an old videocassette recording of “Paris, Texas” to degrade the images.

Joaquin Phoenix made us believe that he was mid-melt down and that we were watching a man on a sprint towards an early death. Will the public forgive him for it? Will they trust him again as a regular actor? The LA Times has reported that he’s already taking offers on new roles, but the first real test will be where it all began… next Wednesday, when he returns to the Late Show With David Letterman.