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Joaquin Phoenix Still Gets Crippling Anxiety and Physically Ill Before Taking on a New Role

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Despite his successful, award-winning career, Joaquin Phoenix still suffers from nerves before each role. The 45-year-old actor covers the May issue of British GQ and reveals the anxiety he feels weeks ahead of the start of production.

The author of the article writes that Phoenix "gets crippling anxiety for weeks before shooting starts," adding that "the day before, he feels physically sick."

"For the first three weeks of shooting, he sweats so much that they have to put pads in his armpits," the article adds.

Director James Gray even recalls Phoenix vomiting backstage ahead of a TV interview due to nerves.

Of the nerves he feels in those situations, Phoenix says, "It’s pure anxiety. And I love it."

The actor's love of that feeling has been evident throughout his career, as he largely refuses to rehearse because, the journalist surmises, "Phoenix revels in the anxiety of not knowing."

That philosophy of uncertainty has led Phoenix to believe that everything actors are taught is "completely f**king wrong." Ironically, he reached that conclusion after filming the 2005 flick -- and awards darling -- Walk the Line.

"You just act and it’s so ugly," he says. 

Joaquin Phoenix
Matt Holyoak

After making that movie, Phoenix tells the magazine that he thought of himself as a "hedonist" living in Los Angeles who wanted to, the journalist writes, "have a good time."

"I wasn’t engaging with the world or myself in the way I wanted to," Phoenix says. "I was being an idiot, running around, drinking, trying to screw people, going to stupid clubs."

During that same period, Phoenix flipped his car while driving on a winding side road in Los Angeles. The accident left him "bloodied, bruised and disorientated," according to the article, and Phoenix decided to smoke a cigarette.

Before he could do so, though, he heard someone with a German accent tell him to "Just relax." While Phoenix assured the voice he was relaxed, the man replied, "No, you’re not" and pointed out that he was about to light a cigarette in a car that was leaking gasoline. After climbing out of the car, Phoenix discovered that the man was in fact the director Werner Herzog.

A few years later in 2010, Phoenix made the mockumentary I'm Still Here, which portrayed him as a rude version of himself who wants to quit acting and get into hip hop. Though the movie lost him money and was largely criticized and misunderstood, Phoenix considers it a success.

"It’s the best thing I’ve ever done," he says, "in terms of helping me grow as an actor and having a deeper appreciation for acting."

Watch the video below for more on Phoenix.

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