Joaquin Phoenix on the traditional rules of acting and why he has his own

The acclaimed actor discusses his latest film, writer and director Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here,” with Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir. Phoenix opened up about the process of bringing to life his character Joe, a traumatized veteran with an abusive past and a fractured psyche who tracks down missing girls for a living.

Getting into character is “a process that I don’t really understand,” Phoenix admitted on “Salon Talks.” “It’s something that I don’t fully understand and that I don’t want to.” The three-time Oscar nominee says his sweet spot as an artist is when he’s not making a conscious decision. “I try not to make rules about the character. I don’t like that idea [of saying] ‘my character would never do that.’ I don’t know what the fuck they’d do. Anything’s possible. There’s things that I do all the time that are out of character. What does that mean to be ‘in character’?”

Variety describes Ramsay’s thriller as “stark, sinewy” and “slashed-to-the-bone.” It won best screenplay and Phoenix took home the best actor award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Watch the video above to hear more about Phoenix’s four upcoming films and why he often takes breaks from acting, then works intensely on several at a time. As far as developing a style to his work, Phoenix doesn’t get too hung up on definitions. “I don’t think there’s really any rules,” he said. “Each movie just starts telling you what it wants to be.”

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