The ‘Fake Joaquin Phoenix’ Flap — It’s a Fraud, Too

A PR company claims an impersonator has crashed and disrupted red carpets at the festival — except there haven’t been any yet

Watch out for the Joaquin Phoenix impersonator!

Correction: Pay attention to the Joaquin Phoenix impersonator!Joaquin Phoenix

That’s the confusing message that comes from the first attempted media fuss of Toronto 2010, when a PR company sent out an email detailing how someone apparently posing as the actor-turned-rapper had been “causing a stir” at Toronto by crashing red carpets with a gaggle of “scantily clad female groupies” and a phalanx of security.

Fans, it said, are being “tricked and disillusioned by the fraud.”

The trouble is, at the time the email was sent out on Thursday morning, there hadn’t been any TIFF red carpets. The first won’t take place until Thursday night, when the fest kicks off with a gala screening of “Score: A Hockey Musical.”

Sure, there have been a couple of parties, but they went off without any apparent disruption by a faux Phoenix, at least from what I’ve heard.

When asked by TheWrap to clarify what red carpets the imposter had been crashing, Nuclear Lounge Media president “Diamond Darryl K.” supplied no details. Instead, he simply pointed to upcoming appearances — notably Friday night before the Toronto premiere of “I’m Still Here,” the Casey Affleck movie that follows an out-of-control Phoenix as he quits acting and tries to become a rapper.

“Affleck and his team,” according to the release, “are aware of this con artist and have been in touch with him.”

In other words, it’s all a stunt of some kind – the only question is whether Phoenix and Affleck are in on it, or whether it’s somebody else trying to get some publicity on the back of a project that has already left viewers wondering if Phoenix’s meltdown is real or if the whole thing’s a hoax.

When asked if Nuclear Lounge Media had any ties to “I’m Still Here,” a publicist who is working the film told TheWrap: "This is not connected to the film/Magnolia and neither has anything to do with this."

So now we’ve got a fraud on top of a hoax, or one con on the back of another – or, perhaps, a Sacha Baron Cohen-style publicity stunt that has grown to massive proportions.

All of which serves to either obscure — or to hype — “I’m Still Here,” in which a bloated Phoenix is seen taking drugs, cavorting with prostitutes, abusing his staff and breaking down many times as he tries to launch a rap career. Many reviewers have wondered if the whole thing is an elaborate piece of performance art, though most seem to feel that Phoenix’s meltdowns are at least partially real.

My take: The film is crude and offensive and wildly entertaining. If it’s a true document of what Phoenix has been through in the past two years, it’s terribly sad and terribly revealing – and if it’s something he staged, that’s just as sad and in a way just as revealing.

I think that a good portion of it is real, though some scenes are clearly staged and exaggerated. (And if you look closely at the end credits, you can figure out which is which to some degree.)

Meanwhile, the “imposter” is apparently now planning to disrupt a real red carpet at Friday's premiere, which will be a change from not doing it but putting out a press release to say he did.

And if it turns out that this is all Phoenix’s doing, and the whole thing was a stunt from the beginning, then I have one suggestion:

Stop the tomfoolery, and mount a Best Actor campaign for the guy right now.

Here's the full press release:

**For Immediate Release

"Charlatan Causing A Stir At The Toronoto International Film Festival (TIFF)"

Toronto, Canada (MMD Newswire) September 9, 2010 — A Joaquin Phoenix impostor is on the loose making red carpet appearances everywhere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Fans are being tricked and disillusioned by the fraud who arrives by limousine and is accompanied by a massive entourage of security and scantily clad female groupies. The impostor keeps insisting that, "It is the other Joaquin Phoenix who is the fake!".

Producer/Director Casey Affleck and his team are aware of this con artist and have been in touch with him concerning his misrepresentation. An official statement to the press will be made on Friday, September 10 between 8:45pm and 9:15pm on Balmuto Street, just outside the entrance of the Varsity Theatre at Bay and Bloor, before the Gala Premiere of Phoenix's new movie "I'm Still Here".

For more information, or to arrange an interview reply by e-mail to nuclearloungemedia@gmail.comor contact by telephone at 416-398-7363.