Director Casey Affleck has finally admitted that what was billed as a documentary portraying the drug-addled collapse of Joaquin Phoenix's acting career was, in fact, all made up.
In an interview with The New York Times, Affleck says that "I'm Still Here" is not the raw, painful piece of reality filming that it pretended to be as it follows Phoenix over a two-year period.
"It's a terrific performance. It's the performance of his career," Affleck was quoted as saying in the interview on Thursday.
Scenes of drug-taking and prostitution were all staged, as were scenes from what was supposedly archive footage of Phoenix's family.
"There were multiple takes, these are performances," Affleck said.
Even Phoenix's infamously deadbeat appearance on the David Letterman talk show in 2009 was not what it appeared. Phoenix - unknown to Letterman - was acting throughout.
"We wanted to create a space," Affleck was quoted as saying. "You believe what's happening is real."
Affleck presented the movie at the Venice film festival in September as an "unflinching" documentary.
During some 18 months of shooting, Phoenix "never shied away from letting me see all the different aspects of his personality," Affleck said of his Phoenix, who is his brother-in-law and who got an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of country singer Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line."
In the Times interview, Affleck said: I never intended to trick anybody.... The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind."