In the course of his three-decade-spanning career, Joaquin Phoenix, AKA Leaf Phoenix, AKA the Joaq of Life, AKA the guy I’m writing a Career View-type thing on, has played a variety of flawed men and guys who want to fuck artificial intelligence (don’t tell me that doesn’t describe him in SpaceCamp), with that aspect ramped all the way up since he returned from his “retirement”. Hell, his performance as an unrepentant murderer is not even his least likable performance since 2012. But the irrationality of that man does not compare of how irrational Phoenix seems as a casting choice for that least irrational of all men, Jesus Christ (whoa, hang on here; Jesus Christ, Joaquin is Cool). And yet, here we are.
Phoenix is currently in talks to star as Jesus in the film Mary Magdalene, about Mary Magdalene (weird, right?). Magdalene has already been cast, and she’s played by none other than Rooney Mara, who was seen opposite Phoenix in Her, playing his ex-wife/non-computer love interest in the film. A leading role for Mara is always great news, especially when it doesn’t involve Native American cosplay, and her being opposite Phoenix in a more major role than last time is especially exciting. However, despite the fact that I spend much of my existence blowing Phoenix every chance I get, Phoenix could potentially be a stumbling block here. Maybe more accurately, the film’s treatment of Jesus could make him a stumbling block. Often, except in the official best Jesus movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, portrayals of Jesus have veered towards saintly and smiling to avoid controversy, which is fine and all, except Phoenix thrives on characters plagued by demons, and having him play a blank slate has not worked well in the past (his worst-ever performance, in Ladder 49, is in service of a character with absolutely no personality or demons). Hopefully his possible casting is a sign that director Garth Davis (whose first film, Lion, has not come out yet) is taking a more interesting look at Jesus, but we’ll have to wait and see (with the portrayal and with Phoenix fitting this into his schedule).
Before we get to see if Phoenix will look really tortured while wandering through the desert, he will first reunite with director/brother-in-law Casey Affleck on the survival western Low Bright Star, where he plays a character with the amazing name Napoleon Childs. And in the meantime, since you probably didn’t watch Irrational Man, maybe watch that?