Q: How did you guys bond outside of working? Woody, Mike said you liked to go to escape rooms in whatever city you were shooting.
Norman: Yeah, we did an escape room in New Orleans and we did another one in New York and they were both really fun. I was terrible at them and so was Joaquin. I won't let you lie — you were also really bad.
Phoenix: Yeah, I was terrible. Oftentimes when you're making a movie where you're supposed to develop a relationship the director will think it's a good idea to set up a dinner or something so you can hang out and get to know each other and it always feels false and backfires. We didn't really have that. There was nothing imposed on us.
We shot pretty much in order so we really got to go on this journey together. We started in L.A. and were getting to know each other and figuring out how to work together and then we went to New York and suddenly that's a brand-new experience and the city is speaking to you in a different way and affecting how you interact with each other. It felt really organic.
Q: Joaquin, you have nieces and nephews and at some point around the time you were making this film you found out you were going to become a father. Did any of that filter into your performance?
Phoenix: Certainly not consciously. I don't work that way because I think it always feels a little bit gross to do that. But I'm sure obviously we were affected by all of our experiences in life. But yes, I am an uncle to four boys and they're all different ages and I'm sure some of that bled through in some way.
Q: You started out as a child actor, as did Gaby Hoffmann. Did that experience help in any way in working with Woody?
Phoenix: I don't think any of my previous experience helped. I think Woody is a unique and special talent, and I was very excited that that creative spirit in him could be nurtured working with Mike in a film like this. I wonder what kind of actor I'd be if I'd had an experience like this early on.
Toward the end of the filming, Woody said without any irony that he'd been carrying me basically throughout this whole production, and me and Mills agreed with him completely. [laughs] So in no way did I feel like I was the seasoned veteran actor who was able to provide any kind of advice for the young one. Woody was very much in control of what he was doing, and I was along for the ride, learning.
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