Woody Norman on What It’s Like to Work with Joaquin Phoenix


I was surprised to learn that you’re actually British. Was it difficult for you to do the American accent for the role?

A couple years beforehand, I did some voice training, but that was for another job. And it’s been like a second accent for me for ages because of how it’s quite similar in a lot of ways that a lot of people don’t see. But it’s just the Rs and the As, and vocal inflections that are different.

Have you gotten to see the movie yet?

Yes. We’ve seen it a few times. We recently went to a film festival to see it. We went to London Film Festival to see it. And that was amazing just to see it with a bunch of people that I didn’t know and see what their reaction is.

Did it make you emotional?

I’ve never cried to something I’ve been in, but I bawled the entire time. I just cried. I was weeping the whole time.

I cried a lot too, especially in that scene where Johnny reads the book to Jesse.

When I’m making a film, it’s never in my head that this is going to be released. It’s just thinking that I’m making a film. So to see it with a bunch of people, like I’m at a cinema, it’s mad to me and it just made me cry.

Was everyone else in the audience also crying?

Yes. Yes.

What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not acting?

Well I love music. I can play three instruments and I’m trying to learn how to play the keyboard, but it’s very hard. I play guitar, the bass, and ukulele. I collect vinyls as well. Anything to do with music I love. I don’t know any music theory because I find I’d rather know how to play a song than know what a diminished fifth is.

What’s your favorite band?

At the moment it’s Nirvana. And I’m not one of those people that say my favorite Nirvana and only know one song. My favorite band is actually Nirvana.

Awesome. How did you get into them?

Well, I had a phase where I loved just heavy music in general. I’m still kind of in the phase, but it’s more just, I listen to it along with everything else. But then more recently, I started to actually listen to all their music and get familiar with all the albums and they might be one of the most interesting bands that I know of.

Shh, shh, shh. Sorry that’s my dog growling. Sorry.

Oh, what kind of dog do you have?

He’s a mix of everything. He’s a street dog from Armenia. We recently adopted him. He thinks there might be a person in the house and he does not like new people.

What’s his name?

His name’s Walter. I got to name him.

Great name. What’s your best story from the set?

I’ve never heard that. Whoa, that’s a good question…

[Woody’s mom off camera: What about Joaquin dancing?]

Oh yeah! When we were in New Orleans, Joaquin just burst into song and he started to sing James Brown songs. Very funny. And it was just out of the blue, from nowhere.

In the movie, Johnny goes around asking children about what their thoughts and hopes for the future are. What would your answer to that question be?

Mine would probably be the same as Jesse’s, just denying the question at first. But then I’d say the whole, well, in my actual opinion, I think the world isn’t going to end soon. I think we’ll sort everything out, all the bad stuff is going on. I think it’ll get sorted out. So I’m putting a lot of faith in the people that will hopefully stop it. But I think as people, we should just stop overly worrying about it, ‘cause that’ll make it worse. We need to stop worrying and actually do something. If we just do something, it’ll get fixed in a few decades.

This conversation has been edited and condensed.




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