Nathan Lane is Beau Is Afrid and assists Joaquin Phoenix in the comedy

“Joaquin acted like she was Olivia de Havilland in Lady in a Cage,” said her co-star. “But when I read that, it was funny.”

You’ve never seen more Joaquin Phoenix than in Beau Is Afraid , playing a 49-year-old Jewish virgin on a Freudian guilt trip to meet his strangling mother on the anniversary of his father’s strange death.

A performance as blatantly physical and schadenfreude-inspiringly comic as he’s never given before. The same star who once danced down a flight of stairs in New York in a mid-psychotic episode, while Joker now tumbles down city steps, tumbles down ladders, smashes through glass doors while sporting a pair of speedbag-sized testicles.

Phoenix may be notorious for the seriousness of her roles — and her on-set seriousness, which her “Beau Is Afraid” stars Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan flatly deny in interviews with IndieWire. But “Beau Is Afraid” takes us back to “Inherent Vice” panic-attack-slapping territory that’s appropriate for a three-hour movie. Phoenix’s priceless screeching reaction when Jena Malone’s character shows her a picture of her deformed baby in Paul Thomas Anderson’s last honest-to-god comedy.

Still, “Beau Is Afraid” apparently pushed Phoenix to such extremes that writer-director Ari Aster says she passed out from exhaustion on set when she wasn’t even affected, but trying to help. co-star Patti LuPone. “I knew it was wrong because he let people touch him. People were looking out for him and he let it be and he was very confused,” Aster said.

“You’ve heard that Daniel Day-Lewis does it, so maybe Joaquin does it, but it’s the opposite,” Amy Ryan said. “But I’m telling you, if it’s not true for him, he won’t do it.” It just won’t do it. I feel like this is the only time I’ve ever seen him angry, and angry isn’t the right word. But he won’t stand for something that isn’t true.”

Beau is scared

“Beau fear”


Lane and Ryan play rogue suburban couple Roger and Grace, a surgeon and a compassionate social worker, who take Beau into their home after Grace accidentally (or does?) hit him with her van. In this three-hour odyssey, the three actors share relatively little screen time, though it lends itself to some of “Beau’s” most exciting moments.

Lane does his best as Nathan Lane, a downright goofy, almost completely incompetent doctor who tries to nurse Beau back to health after a serious accident, but can barely get stitches to close it up. (Meanwhile, Roger and Grace try to replace the dead boy they lost in the war.)

“Joaquin is arguably the best actor working in film today. I think he’s extraordinary. She is absolutely lovely. He is a nice person and very accessible. No movie star crap. It’s about work and that’s all he cares about,” said Lane, who previously said Phoenix couldn’t look him in the eye during takes for fear he would start laughing. So what you see in the dead body close-ups is Phoenix looking at the bridge of Lane’s nose.

Although Lane emphasized that Phoenix is ​​”a real artist and just a beautiful guy,” there was a moment early in the production when he had to get the actor, known for his brooding attitude, to lighten up a bit. And that extended to Ari Aster as well.

“We started shooting, shooting the scene where he wakes up in bed. As written, the scene was funny, because it’s like waking up in Oz after the Kafkaesque nightmare part, and in a teenage girl’s bedroom there is a boy band surrounded by posters and stuffed unicorns, and an IV. Heavily medicated with an ankle bracelet. Joaquin acted like Olivia de Havilland in “Lady in a Cage.” It was very intense and emotional, and we could barely get our lines in, so he wasn’t doing the dialogue as it was written,” recalled Lane.

Beau is scared

“Beau fear”


“We shot for about three hours. Then we went to lunch and I said to Ari, “This is your movie. You can do what you want. But when I read this, it was funny. You wrote a black comedy. And I said, “The audience has been through this terrible opening, and when we get to this point, we should feel a sense of relief.” Now it’s like “It’s in the suburbs! It will be fine! These people seem to be fine! It looks like corn. It was all very intentional on his part. So I said, “I think you’re missing that, or shying away from it.”

Aster spoke with Phoenix, who according to Lane “wasn’t happy with the way (it was going) either.” After some behind-the-scenes work on figuring out the right voice, Lane recalled turning to her co-star and saying, “Look, Joaquin, we don’t know each other. I don’t know how to tell you, but this scene has to be funny.”

“So I gave him a little comedy tip. I told him to take one of the stuffed unicorns and gave him a deal. I said, ‘Pull it out from under you like you’re in pain, then pull out the unicorn and look at it. You will laugh.”

Phoenix told Lane, “I can’t,” to which Lane responded, “Of course you can. You won an Oscar. Keep it in mind. He started laughing. He broke the ice. It allowed us to find the right voice for that part of the film, and of course because of that he laughed at everything I said, and when it was a close-up of me and I was talking to him, I improvised and he said, “I can’t look at you.” A lot of things have been cut.”

According to Lane, this actually wasn’t the first time a colleague told him he couldn’t look directly at the Tony and Emmy Award-winning comic actor for fear of an outburst. “William Hickey once said that to me. He’s an amazing character actor… who played my dad in Mouse Hunt, he was nearing the end of his life and that was his last film. He was in a hospital bed and he had that very distinctive voice that borders on Harvey Fierstein, but he said, “I can’t look you in the eye or I’ll laugh.”

“Beau Is Afraid” opens April 14th on A24 in New York and Los Angeles, and then in theaters everywhere on April 21st. Over the weekend, you can meet Ari Aster, Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan and more for deeper dives into the film.

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