Joaquin Phoenix prefers an organic approach to learning his lines

In a post-Marlon Brando, post-Method world, spontaneity has been valued almost more than anything when it comes to acting, especially in film. The “act as if you’re not acting” approach to acting. Spontaneity is almost impossible if every word you say has been written before. To combat this, some actors, like Joaquin Phoenix, have developed a learn-as-you-go approach to remembering lines. Instead of just memorizing everything at the start, you learn as much as you need for a particular scene on a particular day, without giving yourself time to rehearse things with dialogue to limit your options when performing the scene. In an interview with The Guardian during the press tour for “Inherent Vice”, Phoenix explained why he isn’t too fond of memorizing lines for a predetermined outcome:

“I just like to discover things as we go. I try more and more to be receptive to what’s happening in the moment rather than creating these ideas and trying to impose them on the set. The best feeling is when you don’t. think you’re saying the lines. You think you screwed up and you just spoke. And you go, oh, did I misunderstand? And they say no, everything was the.

He sees this way of working as a way of “being open to his unconscious” because he thinks that “sometimes he knows better than you”. In this respect, he is not entirely wrong. If you’re playing from a purely instinctive place, the unconscious is what will drive the bus that is your performance. Clearly, this approach worked for Joaquin Phoenix, who consistently delivered captivating performances. Sometimes his subconscious turns him into a ham sandwich, but can you blame someone who is instinctively a ham sandwich? Just in his nature.

Personally, I find the rehearsal process invaluable, really refining a scene before editing it in front of a camera or an audience. A lot of movie actors find rehearsal to be a killer, but I wonder if it’s a plus because the circumstances in which movies can’t allocate time and money to rehearsals have led actors to feel that. Either way, every actor has their own way of working, and as long as that way isn’t a burden on the people they’re working with, do what you have to. Joaquin, if you want to keep learning your lines in this organic, unconscious way, go ahead man.

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