Phoenix says "no turning back" on quitting acting

NEW YORK Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:42pm EST

Actor Joaquin Phoenix at the Los Angeles premiere of ''Che'', November 1, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Actor Joaquin Phoenix at the Los Angeles premiere of ''Che'', November 1, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Joaquin Phoenix insists he isn't being arrogant, but acting, unlike hip-hop music, just doesn't excite him anymore.

The twice Oscar-nominated actor says he doesn't understand controversy surrounding his decision to quit acting for the sometimes violent world of hip-hop music, even though it came at the height of his career. And he didn't really think anyone would care.

Phoenix, 34, spoke about his decision on Wednesday for what he says is his last film, tortured romance "Two Lovers," in which he plays opposite Gwyneth Paltrow. It is set for release in the United States on Friday.

"It's a personal thing. It's not a judgment on other people or on the industry. It simply doesn't excite me anymore, there is nothing left for me to discover. I know that maybe sounds arrogant, as if I am a great actor and I have done these great things ... but I achieved my idea of success."

He said there would be no change in his decision, which was "something I had thought about a lot."

"When music replaced acting for me, there was no turning back," he said. "I have never wanted to be an actor for the sake of being an actor, I have never been wanting to just make money or to be famous."

Phoenix was a child actor and the brother of deceased actor River Phoenix. He won initial acclaim in smaller films like Gus Van Sant's "To Die For," before going on to big Hollywood movies like his first Oscar-nominated role in "Gladiator."

His second nomination came for crooning country songs and portraying singer Johnny Cash in biopic, "Walk the Line."

But now Phoenix has a new image. He sports a scruffy beard, wears dark glasses and says hip-hop was always a passion.

"Hip-hop is something I have loved since I was a kid," he said. "It's just the right medium to express myself in now."

His decision was disclosed only a few months ago and took Hollywood by surprise. The shock of it, coupled with his falling off stage while performing at a Las Vegas nightclub, has many industry watchers thinking this new act is a spoof cooked up with his brother-in-law Casey Affleck, who is chronicling Phoenix's crossover in a documentary.

"I can see how people might think it is shocking," he said. "But by saying my life is a joke or the thing that I love is a joke, well, that bothers me."

As for his new appearance, also criticized for looking more rock than rap, he retorts: "I am not trying to be hip-hop, I am not trying to dress hip-hop, I am who I am. It's the particular medium I have chosen to express myself, but I don't' feel like I have to fit in."

An album he is working on from his own studio is "mostly self-produced," with help from rapper Diddy (Sean Combs).

Other rap acts he likes included mostly older groups and artists such as Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Notorious B.I.G and N.W.A. He said Tupac Shakur's "All Eyez on Me" was "one of the great records I have ever heard."

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