Magnolia Pictures has completed an acquisition of I’m Still Here: The Lost Year Of Joaquin Phoenix, the mockumentary that Casey Affleck directed about his brother-in-law’s bizarre transformation from acclaimed actor to debauched hip-hop artist. Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles tells me the film is set for a platform release on September 10, with wide release a week later. Bowles acknowledged the possibility of a festival premiere — I hear Venice or Toronto — and the Magnolia release will include a VOD component.
Phoenix has a relationship with Magnolia that includes Two Lovers, his last film before he took this odd journey. Bowles said Phoenix will be speaking about the pic in some capacity. Bowles said he made the deal after several face-to-face meetings with Affleck and acquired the film over several other bidding outlets. Bowles was among the distributors who attended buyer screenings held on both coasts by sales agent WME Global. Some distribs walked away turned off or confused. They weren’t sure if this was an Andy Kaufman-like hoax, or a great actor’s meltdown. Among other hijinks, Phoenix is seen snorting coke off the breast of a prostitute.
Bowles didn’t say whether he believed the storyline, but he came away confident this was a film he could sell, and that it introduces the work of a real filmmaker in Affleck. “No matter what I thought coming in, I came out feeling this was a pretty amazing piece of work, jaw dropping but dimensional,” Bowles told me. “It is going to get a lot of attention, but it is not some cheap stunt where they said, ‘Let’s do some wild stuff and film it.’ It is extreme behavior but really good filmmaking as well. Frankly, some of the behavior is very extreme. But it is in the context of the insanity of being in Joaquin’s life for that period of time. It is a unique piece of work that is going to surprise people in different ways.”
WME reps both Affleck and Phoenix and WME Global brokered the deal.