Ari Aster, director of the eerily mind-boggling horror films Midsommar and Hereditary, commented on how “beyond committed” Joaquin Phoenix is for his upcoming film Beau is Afraid, to the point where Joaquin actually fainted during one of the film’s scenes.
On Saturday, Aster pulled his own April Fools prank by playing a screening for his new film at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in New York for an audience that was expecting to watch an extended version of his 2019 film Midsommar.
In attendance was actress Emma Stone, who asked Aster after the screening, “Are you okay, man?” per Variety.
Beau is Afraid looks like Aster’s most “out there” film to date, which follows Phoenix’s character, Beau, who embarks on a journey to get back home after a family tragedy occurs. The trip could be easily completed by hopping on a plane or something, but is interrupted by a variety of circumstances including a car accident, a kidnapping, and part of the adventure taking place in a partly animated world surrounding Beau.
The film dives deep into Beau’s character and psyche, as Aster puts it in response to Stone’s concern, “I want you to go through [Beau’s] guts and come out of his butt.”
This is Aster’s first time working with Phoenix, who is known to be one of Hollywood’s most profound method actors, and it definitely showed while filming the movie.
“He’s so beyond committed,” Aster said of working with Joaquin. “He really makes decisions carefully because when he takes something on it’s his whole life. Every dangerous thing that Beau does, Joaquin did.”
Aster added that “everything has to feel honest”, while describing an incident where Joaquin fainted during a scene that focused on Beau’s mother, who is played by Patti LuPone.
“There was a scene that was very intense for Patti and it was a shot that was on Patti, it was not on [Phoenix] and all of a sudden he fell out of frame,” Aster remembered, per Deadline. “I was really pissed ’cause it was a really good take. It felt confusing so I went around the corner and he was collapsed.”
“I knew it was bad because he was letting people touch him,” Aster continued, “and people were tending to him and he was allowing it. The point is that he fainted in somebody else’s take, he wasn’t on camera and he was helping them, he was in it for them to the point where he collapsed. It’s very poetic that he collapsed in somebody else’s shot.”
According to Aster, Phoenix’s commitment to the part even stretched to the more physically demanding and particularly dangerous scenes that would normally be conducted by a stunt double, including a scene where Joaquin was left with a shard of glass penetrated into his side after jumping through a glass door.
The surprise screening certainly left a lasting impact on the viewers, as Stone called the film a “masterpiece”, adding, “When I first saw it I needed hours afterwards to process it.”
Beau is Afraid is an A24 film and hits theaters April 21.