Hollywood has been left reeling by the announcement that two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix is to quit acting – to concentrate on his "music career". Phoenix this week told US television programme Extra that his latest film, Two Lovers, released next February, will be his last. "I want to take this opportunity ... to give you the exclusive and just talk a little bit about the fact that this will be my last performance as an actor," the star told a shocked reporter.
The sultry heart-throb – who is lauded by critics and audiences alike for mainstream hits (Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, 2005) and edgier roles (a drug-dealing GI in Buffalo Soldiers, 2001) – is the latest recruit to an army of actor-musicians that numbers Juliette Lewis, Keanu Reeves, Johnny Depp and thinking man's crumpet Scarlett Johansson. So how is Joaquin likely to fare in his new profession? Sorry to say it, Joaquin, but your fellow thespians have not made the transition well.
Juliette Lewis has enjoyed limited recent success both on and off screen. Her celebrity star was at its peak in 1994 with Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers but since then it has waned. Instead, she has focused on being frontwoman of Juliette and the Licks, with whom she has gigged since 2003. But while she has written songs with US hit-maker Linda Perry (who penned several Pink hits) Lewis's recordings have not set the world alight. None of her records have charted higher that the mid-30s in the UK album charts.
Keanu Reeves, guitar hero, has achieved even less. As bassist in Dogstar, the beefcake has used his star power to open for the likes of Bon Jovi, but the debut album was only distributed in Japan. Reeves once described playing for a live audience as "a huge mistake".
The group eventually disbanded in 2002, although The Matrix actor has performed since with another rock outfit, Becky (know them well ...).
Why do Hollywood stars do this to themselves? "Actors want that instant gratification from being musicians and musicians want to be actors," explains Paul Rees, editor-in-chief of Q magazine. "But you want to put your arm around each of them and say 'Leave it well alone'." The fact that Keanu's band has just split up, well, I am not sure anyone will be that disappointed beyond his immediate family. And just because Joaquin Phoenix could pull off a decent Johnny Cash impression, that does not mean he can be a musician in his own right. All of these things smack of vanity projects. Johnny Depp [playing slide guitar] appeared on Oasis' 1997 album Be Here Now, but some of his own work is unlistenable.
"When you attain their level of success no-one tells you it's a bad idea. It's the same with Scarlett Johansson. She brought in David Bowie to duet with her [on her debut album Anywhere I Lay My Head, released in May] but I suspect if she had been 23 stone he would not have been so keen."
Some might say Phoenix can afford to leave acting behind. He earned $3.5m for Walk the Line, for which he also picked up a Grammy; he made it to the top. Presumably now hungry for a new challenge, he is set to collaborate with former Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess. Though looking at the statistics, he might be better sticking to the day job.
An ear for a bargain
Snapping at the heels of Lidl's £4.99 lobsters, mass-market jeweller H Samuel arrives with its own recession-proof luxury: a pair of diamond stud earrings for only £14.99.
On hearing of the offer I assumed it couldn't be ethical, though the store insists it sticks to the Kimberly Process to avoid conflict gems. And set elegantly in white gold, they're not only the real thing, but rather pretty – up close.
At 0.3cm wide, you'd have to squint to properly appreciate them, which makes me think: wouldn't it be better to stick to costume jewellery? Alice-Azania Jarvis
Exclusive: Guy's contract for Madonna
It's alleged that Madonna tried to control her husband's life by drawing up a "contract" instructing him how to behave – but Hit & Run has uncovered his contract for her: "1) Madonna should have a heart about the sodding soya milk diet. She should let her husband have a good old brekky-wekkie of bacon, mushrooms, sausage, scrambled egg and fried slice, without making a song and dance about it. 2) Madonna does not have to wear a black leotard and diamanté riding crop. Would it kill her to wear a pretty frock sometimes? 3) Madonna must learn to eschew conflict in a constructive way by shutting her trap about money, adoption, and Christina Aguilera. 4) Madonna must be obsessed with my body. Or keen on sex once a week. Or month. Or interested in a quick one now and then. Or at all, really." John Walsh
Lily's only got herself to blame for feeling flu
Had Lily Allen followed NHS advice before rushing out to get a flu jab, she wouldn't now be feeling "like death". She is less than half the age at which getting a jab is recommended (65) but the 23-year-old thought she would "give it a try" anyway.
Anyway, a few days later it turns out the poor girl is "burning up" with – you guessed it – flu-like symptoms. Those prankster docs actually sneaked some of the virus into the jab that's supposed to prevent it.
Lily didn't divulge where she got the jab, but unless she's in one of the number of 'at-risk' groups of under-65s who can get a free jab on the NHS, she probably went to one of the hundreds of high street pharmacists in stores like Boots, Asda and Tesco, which charge as little as £10 for a flu-free winter.
Aside from pensioners, those at risk include anyone with lung problems such as asthma, plus those with heart, kidney or liver conditions, diabetes or a weakened immune system. Plus poultry workers.
If you're a healthy young person, however, the NHS advises against putting yourself through the discomfort poor Lily is experiencing. What's more, no other ailment permits pulling a four-day sickie like full-blown flu does ... Sophie Morris