Writer: Letterman was in on Phoenix joke

Sept. 18, 2010 at 2:47 PM
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HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- David Letterman knew Joaquin Phoenix's bizarre behavior during an interview last year was an act, a writer for "The Late Show" host says.

Phoenix was a guest on "The Late Show" on Feb. 11, 2009, purportedly to promote his film "Two Lovers," but he made headlines for a bizarre and largely incoherent appearance in which he announced his retirement from acting and aspirations to become a hip-hop artist.

It turns out the affectation was designed to promote the upcoming Casey Affleck-directed flick "I'm Still Here," Affleck revealed Thursday, claiming no one else knew the plot, including Letterman.

The Hollywood Reporter Friday discovered an interview Letterman writer Bill Scheft gave to independent newspaper Nuvo last year in which Scheft claimed Letterman was in on the gag.

"It was great television," Scheft told Nuvo. "But I will take credit for the line, 'I think I owe Farrah Fawcett an apology.' That line was mine. I gave that to him during the break." (Fawcett famously appeared on the show in 1997, delivering a similarly awkward and incoherent performance.)

"I've told people that (everyone was in on the joke), and not only don't people believe me, they tell me that I'm wrong and that (Phoenix) is a schizophrenic and he needs help and he's going to end up like his brother (River, who died of a drug overdose in 1993). I said no. I saw the segment notes. It's an act. I saw Ben Affleck's brother taping the whole thing from offstage," Scheft said in the interview.

Letterman famously ended the segment with Phoenix with the line, "Joaquin, I'm sorry you couldn't be here tonight."

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