Joaquin Phoenix to David Letterman: I’m Sorry

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AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab

The actor returns to the scene of his infamous appearance and comes clean. And that’s not just a reference to Joaquin Phoenix now being without beard.

Phoenix was on Letterman Wednesday night and apologized for his surreal behavior last year, confessing that it was an elaborate piece of performance art. To recap, his shaggy beard, unkempt hair and sunglasses was all part of him telling the talk show host that he was giving up acting for a rap career. The truth was that he was merely playing a role for Casey Affleck’s fake documentary on Phoenix’s “career change,” called I’m Still Here, which has just been released. (Check out TIME’s review of I’m Still Here.)

“You’ve interviewed many, many people and I assumed that you would know the difference between a character and a real person, so — but I apologize,” Phoenix said. “I hope I didn’t offend you in any way.” Au contraire. Letterman went to town again, recalling the 2009 appearance as, “like you slipped and hit your head in the tub,” while telling Phoenix the chance to make a fool out of him was akin to batting practice (“Every one of them was a dinger.”) What’s more, Letterman now wants “paying” for his role in the ruse (NewsFeed thinks he’s joking).

If you wish to compare and contrast, the two interviews are below for your perusal. (And then see Phoenix’s appearance on our Top 10 Celebrity Makeovers list.)

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