The phone rings. ''Hi, my name's Joaquin,'' a voice says. ''I think we're supposed to speak today.''
The mercurial Joaquin Phoenix starts his interviews differently to other Hollywood stars. And because voting has just closed in the US, it seems reasonable to ask firstly what he did on election day.
''Oh, who cares?'' the two-time Oscar nominee says derisively from his home in Los Angeles. But isn't this a defining moment in American politics?
Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from The Master.
''No, I don't mean who cares about that,'' he says. ''I mean, who cares what I'm doing?
''I'm not sure I'm well-spoken enough to handle that kind of stuff. I imagine that I'll just be walking around in two days and my publicist will go, 'You idiot, why did you say that?'''
Phone time with an actor best known for playing intense, troubled characters in such movies as To Die For, Gladiator, Walk the Line, I'm Still Here and now The Master is a colourful experience. Phoenix has a suggestion.
''I think you should just write the interview that you'd like and I approve it.''
As an approach, it has its merits. But a journalist would have trouble inventing Phoenix's recent lacerating comments about the Oscars.
''I think it's total, utter bullshit and I don't want to be a part of it,'' he told Interview magazine. ''Pitting people against each other … it's the stupidest thing in the whole world''.
Phoenix says he was surprised the comments made such a splash. ''You know what it's like, you sit and you bullshit for a couple of hours. You just miss so much of what someone says when it's written down.'' Pause. ''I guess I sound like a dick.''
What about speculation the comments will cost him another Oscar nomination?
''I didn't even know that I was in a position to do something that would cost me something,'' he says before getting serious. ''But I know that first of all, I wouldn't have the career that I have if it weren't for the Oscars. I haven't been in a lot of movies that have made a lot of money … And getting nominated for a movie has probably helped my career tremendously. But in some ways it's the antithesis of what you want to be as an actor. You're always trying to free yourself of the artifice, which is really difficult. Especially when you suck, like me.''
So would Phoenix go if nominated for The Master next year?
''Come on man, you know that it's more complex than that,'' he says good-naturedly. ''It's not like I f---ing hate the Oscars … It doesn't occupy my time to where I can build up hate.
''What I was reacting to was sometimes the reverence that we have about these things. I don't want to revere it.''
In Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, Phoenix plays a damaged World War II veteran, Freddie Kwell, who is drawn towards quasi religious leader Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
''It's rare to be able to work with a director like that - somebody that has that freedom,'' he says. ''It felt like there was a lot to discover and fill in. It was a nice love story.''
Watching video of captive animals helped him prepare.
''Gnarly, nasty zoos where there's a gorilla or a pound where you see dogs that are skinny and broken and look like they have mange and are half-crazy and mostly terrified,'' he says. ''We really just wanted to capture that.''
In that lively Oscars interview, Phoenix also said actors were hostage to a director on a movie.
''I meant hostage in that you deliver a performance and the director in post-[production] can completely reshape that performance,'' he says. ''More often than not, I owe them for the performance.
''They cut out the really, really bad stuff. Or in my case, they're forced to leave some bad stuff or else there'd be nothing left in the movie'' he says. ''But I wasn't complaining. I'm happy to serve the director, especially when it's somebody I respect and admire.''
This most method of actors admits going through weeks of anxiety before shooting a movie (''I want to please the director and I want to please the other actors and I don't want to be the weak link'') and finds it difficult to watch the result.
''For me it's just loaded with memories,'' he says. ''When a scene comes up, you just go 'oh I remember that day: we were out on the boat. I can't really have a pure experience when watching it.'' Pause.
''Do you just hate me? Does it sound like horseshit?''
The Master is Phoenix's return to acting after 2010's I'm Still Here, which reputedly showed him becoming a rapper.
''I wanted to work probably six months before I met Paul but there was nothing that I really liked,'' he says. ''I knew that I'd just have to wait.''
But improvising on the mockumentary re-energised his acting. ''I'm very fortunate that I'm in these really amazing situations with great directors,'' Phoenix says cheerfully.
''And I'm still crap.''
The Master opens Thursday.