2001 – 2007
Joaquin’s next role as bored US soldier Ray Elwood in Buffalo Soldiers was not so well recieved. However this has more to with the delayed release and subject sensitivity of 2001 rather than the content. A well observed satire of American Soldiers in peace time, Joaquin plays a drug dealer who comes unstuck when he falls for the daughter of his adversary. Joaquin was also linked romantically to his co-star Anna Paquin at the time.
Joaquin’s next picture was Signs, his first film with M. Night Shyamalan. Following the success of The Sixth Sense, it was another massive hit for the director. Mel Gibson starred and the film earned worldwide recognition for Joaquin as his brother Merrill. He attended the premiere with his model girlfriend Topaz Pagegreen.
Joaquin seemed never to be predictable and his next role was in It’s All About Love, teaming up with Sean Penn and Clare Danes again. The film has been applauded for its cinematography but lacked any real style and did not set the critics alight at the Sundance Festival. It did not get a US release date.
In 2003 Joaquin tried something different by filling in the voice of a hunter named Kenai who magically turned to a grizzly bear in animated Brother Bear. A film his nephews could watch their famous uncle in!
He then reunited with M Night Shyamalan for The Village in 2004. It wasn’t exactly a great movie but with the reputation of the director and the excellent cast, it held the audience’s attention. It was Joaquin’s fourth $100 million dollar success.
Joaquin’s next film Hotel Rwanda saw him appearing alongside Don Cheadle and his former U-Turn co-star Nick Nolte. It was a small role but Joaquin was glad to be involved as the reporter, shocked and disillusioned by events in Rwanda. The film was directed by Terry George.
Joaquin also played a fireman in 2004’s Ladder 49 alongside John Travolta. Joaquin was quoted as saying that he felt this film had the potential to tell an important story. The role required Joaquin to undergo training as a fire fighter, a report that Joaquin has subsequently denied.
Joaquin’s next role would be legendary country singer Johnny Cash in James Mangold’s Walk The Line. Joaquin said that although James wanted him for the part as Johnny, the studio would have not agreed if he hadn’t made the successful money making Signs. Joaquin had met up with Johnny Cash in 2001 and Johnny expressed an interest in Joaquin’s role as Commodus in Gladiator, quoting the scene where Commodus taunted Maximus about his wife and son’s death. Joaquin had to learn how to play guitar and sing for this role and he said he found learning to sing ‘excruciatingly embarrassing’. Joaquin went on to perform at Folsom Prison to inmates after a screening of Walk The Line. Joaquin was nothing short of phenomenal in the film and captured Cash’s demeanour, attitude and vocal style. Joaquin agreed that he had immersed himself totally in playing Johnny Cash, saying that after filming, he had nothing to do, felt abandoned and cut loose. Joaquin then went onto check himself into the Promises Rehabilitation facility in Malibu as he felt he was leaning on alcohol too much. Later on he said it made him think about sobriety and that maybe sobriety wasn’t for ‘pussies’ as he had earlier thought.
Joaquin received the Golden Globe (as did Reece for June) for his role as Johnny Cash and he was tipped for the Oscar as best leading man. He was duly nominated but was pipped to the post by Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Capote. Reece did win the Oscar for her role. Joaquin attended the 78th Annual Oscars with his mother (now Heart) and sister Summer. Prior to the Oscar night in January 2006, Joaquin was driving in the Hollywood Hills and rolled his SUV. He was pulled unhurt from the car by director Werner Herzog. He had been wearing a seat belt and the brakes had failed.
In 2006 Joaquin decided to team up with former co-star Mark Wahlberg and Director James Gray for the thriller We Own The Night. Also starring was Robert Duvall. Joaquin played Nightclub Manager Bobby Green who enjoys the good life until his cop brother is injured by Russian Mafia colleagues of his. His girlfriend was played by Eva Mendes and Joaquin was said to be dating her during filming. Joaquin and Eva both denied this however. Joaquin attended the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 where the film finally premiered to mixed reviews. In between filming, Joaquin visited the Yawanawa people in Brazil, flying out with his friends to experience a different way of life. The long and involved journey meant Joaquin had to at least temporarily overcome his fear of flying. Joaquin clearly enjoyed his Yawanawa experience (apart from the flying) and some of it was filmed to be later made into a documentary. In it, Joaquin expressed his true feelings about how he felt when he said goodbye to his Yawanawa friends.
In 2006 Joaquin was also linked with Katie Parfet and Lindsey Lohan. Joaquin rarely took his girlfriends to his own film premieres, choosing in the main, to take his family members. In the same year Joaquin had began dating Tueta Memedi. Fiercely secretive about his private life, Joaquin would not comment on his love life or Tueta, merely referring to ‘girlfriends’ whenever asked.
Meanwhile he had already filmed John Burnham Schwartz’s adapted novel Reservation Road with Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Connolly. Director Terry George originally had Joaquin in mind for the character Dwight but Joaquin chose to play the more thoughtful Ethan Learner. The film follows the aftermath of a hit and run accident where Ethan’s son is killed. It seemed to be a guaranteed success and was helmed as Oscar bait for Joaquin. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2007. Joaquin attended with his sister Rain and looked a little worse for wear at the press conference. It seemed Joaquin and his co star Mark Ruffalo had attended a party the night before! The film opened in November 2007 in the US but was not well received and has since been described as over sentimental. It certainly lacked the feeling and empathy with the characters in the book. It was quickly withdrawn from US theatres and has not to date been released worldwide. Suffice to say, Joaquin was not nominated for the Oscar 2008.