Joaquin Phoenix and director James Gray appeared at the New York Film Festival for a press conference on Oct. 4, 2013 about their movie, “The Immigrant.”
In the film, Marion Cotillard plays a Polish immigrant in New York who is exploited by a pimp played by Phoenix. Jeremy Renner also stars, and Gray cowrote the screenplay with Ric Menello.
In the press conference, Gray talks about his grandparents, who immigrated to the U.S., saying that they never learned English or assimilated into American culture. He wanted to make a film that shows the immigrant experience in all its complexity rather than the simple “I love America” hype that has been the accepted narrative.
His grandmother’s parents were beheaded by cossacks, but his grandfather still spoke of his longing for “the old country.” His grandparents make a cameo appearance in the film, and he portrays some of their experiences in the movie as well.
Interestingly, Gray didn’t know who Marion Cotillard was, and they had an argument early on after meeting. He wrote the movie for her and for Phoenix, and he says he might not have made the film without them.
Phoenix is just as eccentric in the press conference as you would expect, practically refusing to answer questions throughout. Why he bothered to show up is anyone’s guess.
If you want to know more about immigrant life, visit the Tenement Museum in New York City, which shows how awful life really was for immigrants who arrived on Ellis Island.
Watch the video below for the entire press conference. Interesting stuff.