HAVE YOU EVER introduced a friend of yours to a group of people and afterward felt like saying about your friend, "You just have to get to know her. She is so incredible."? You know all the special qualities she or he has, but they arn't immediately apperant to others. This isn't a bad thing. Many times a person you end up loving isnt the one who dazzeled you the first time you met, but it is frustrating because you want everyone to know and appreciate your friend as you have come to do. It is like when you love a movie or a book and you keep pushing it on everyone you know. " I know its about a young Lithuanian girl and her relationship with a rabbit, but its amazing! Watch the whole thing. Trust me. You'll see." Those movies have names...classics. This is SUMMER JOY PHOENIX, a 23-year-old actress. She is that friend whose beauty you want to show the whole world.She is that movie or book that you never forget once you have fully experienced it. She is amazing. She is a classic...Trust me. You'll see.
             This is not to say that Summer does not make a deep first impression. She
can be startling. The colors of her face are brown, gold, green and red of an almond orchard at sunset. Close friends sometimes call her "Almond Joy". She is one of those people (there arn't many) who always seem to have a breeze gently blowing their hair. And her eyes...Actually...Twinkle...No matter where she is.
             Her behavior is compulsively affectionate. She hugs and kisses everyone. She feels your pain. She wants it to go away. And within five minutes of your meeting, her surprisingly strong hands are laboring over your tense and twisted back muscles.               If this sounds hard to believe then you are probably something between a reasonable person and a cynic. But come watch this Mary statue bleed from the eyes,come watch this wooden Buddha drink milk. Come watch Esther Kahn, and come watch Summer's career from hereon out, and trust me...You'll see.                            
We're sitting outside of Brighter Day Natural Foods on the corner of Bull St. and E.Park Ave. in Savannah,Georgia.  
Casey Affleck:You know, if they ask me to write the introduction for this interview I'm gonna tell the truth about you.          
Summer Phoenix: Ahh. The Truth. Which truth?                      
CA: The big truth. The lebowski truth.                                
SP: Well that's just like your opinion man.                              
CA: (laughs) That's the carpet pisser's opinion.                          
SP: The truth, huh? Okay, I cant wait...And probably won't since you rarely tell
the truth about anything.                                          
CA: Yeah, well, I'm gonna. I'm gonna wheel it at 'em. I swear to God.        
SP: Okay                                                                  
CA: So wait a second: why do you think I'll never tell the truth?        
SP: It's a complicated and sad, and and I wont say it here.              
CA: Yeah. See! You dont want to tell the whole ugly tale, the whole truth either. Because you, like any feeling person, dont want to see it edited or misconstured by the reader, then printed next to an acne ad.            
SP: Hey, I'm all for blunt honesty. I will tell.                          
CA: Let's just get on with this.                                        
SP: (laughs)                                                            
CA: What do you think?                                                  
SP: Wait. You're gonna ask me questions? To what end? Let's just be clear from
the beggining.You will ask me questions designed to get answers that will
enlighten the readers about who I am, right?                  
CA: No.        
SP: So, what then? For your own personal edification? You're going to ask me questions you don't know the answers to?                              
CA: No.Questions that YOU don't know the answers to.                    
SP: Oh, really? Like what?                                                
CA: Well...What do you think it is like to be a man?                    
SP: I think it must be hard...and sometimes soft.                      
CA: What actors have you tried to emulate and why?                      
SP: Emily Watson. Her performance in Breaking The Waves inspired and haunted me throughout the making of Esther Kahn. Because of, amoung other things, of her brashness and lack of embarrassment.                      
CA: Her character was brash or she was as an actor.                      
SP: Her acting. She was.            
CA: Why would anyone want to watch an actor?                            
SP: To look for similarity in one's self.  
CA: Why do you do publicity?              
SP: To promote a movie. To expose it in conjuction with making people aware of me as an actor. And I do it so that I can work more.                  
CA: If you don't become successful as an actress, what do you think the reason would be?                                            
SP: Oh, I dont know. The designs of McFate...You never exactly know how Mr. Fatalsticks will cut the turkey. The UNturkey. Or why. Maybe I will have been too focused on the migration of the white billed crane to the Southern states.                    CA: Are they coming South?                                              
SP: We'll see. Maybe I'll get it together and help try and save the Chinese alligator and wandering albatross, both of which have been added to the growing list of endangered species.                              
CA: I'm on that list.                                                    
SP: Or maybe I will end up not having been ambitious enough. Or I couldnt relate to or get hired to do the films that were produced while I was around. I hope that if I don't and up an actress it will be because of clearly thought through decisions based on a well developed set of priorites; lefts and rights I took on the long bumpy road to happy old age.                                    
CA: Can I come?                              
SP: You have good shoes?                        
CA: I know some jokes. Ahh, nevermind. So what qualities do you like in a person?     SP: Some are compassion, self-awarness and the courage to take risks.      
CA: What are you reading?                                
SP: I've been reading the short stories of David Sedaris and recently my mother gave me a book called A Woman's Worth by Marianne Williamson.She has given me this very same book at various times in my life. Each time I am reminded of the beauty and divinity that lies in each and every one of us. It sheds light on the journey of finding and rembering the beautiful woman we srive to be. It inspires me to allow the
process to unfold.                                                          
CA: Hmmm. That's meaningful. Let me ask you this:is it true that you and
your sister, Rain, will be staring in Ruskies 2000?                            
SP: I am not at Liberty to disscus that. If I were at Liberty's (another sister) I could discuss it.              
CA: How is Esther similar to you? How is she differant? How did you feel months into the movie having been her everyday?
SP: That is a really common and deceptively stupid question.You should know better. When I'm acting there is never a clear lie between the role and me. Like "those are her qualities over there and these are mine over here" It is as mysterious as the body and the soul. Once I'm playing a character, trying to split apart myself from the role and distinguish what is her and what is me is a very dangerous thing. It's like
the quantum of mechanics of a personality, ya know? You dont want to split an atom. CA: Just answer the fucking question.                                
SP: Did you hear what I just said?                                                  
CA: Look,just answer the fucking question and dont be a turkey.                                
SP: Esther and I were similar in that we were both girls transforming into women. We were differant in how we approached the transformation and how we dealt while it was happening. How did I prepare? By living for 20 years. Months into filming I had a hard time appreciateing Esther's humanity during her limited times. I wanted her to be stronger in a modern sense. (Esther Kahn is set in the turn of the century) It was up to Arnaud(writer/director)to make sure my resentment didnt bleed into the performance.
SP: I was able to be a part of manifesting a character that hadn't exsisted in the flesh
until Arnaud created her every day. I'm proud of it because I fantasize that I gave a lifeles body breath.              
CA:How do you not hate yourself between roles?                                                      
SP:"A career grows out of who you are; who you are does not grow out of a career"
That's from the book my mother gave me. I try to rember this and surround myself with
 love.You are a Soul Survivor (Casey's new movie) how would you answer that question?                                              
CA:I cant say I dont hate myself sometimes.But I get behind the mule and plow, dont I? Coming off a role is like coming off a roller coaster. I'm standing on the ground, but my insides are still going up
and down and side to side.But I'll tell you what:you dont work for a long
enough and your stomach will settle,but that doesnt feel very good
either.Un- employment is a souring thing.Hobies will stave off lethargy and
decay for only so long.Then you gotta start paddling for real.              
SP: You sleep till noon.
CA: I paddle, woman! I plow!
SP: Ask a question.                                              
CA: All right. Do you recognize that you come to a slow boil?
SP: I think that's a matter of opinion. I like yours though.                          
CA: Have you ever dreamt that you were living in a can of kidney beans and felt angry because everyone assumed you were a bean too?                              
SP: Naturally.                                                    
CA: Uh huh. Would you play Harriet Tubman in a black face?            
SP: No.
CA: Uh huh. Favorite author? Book? Hobby? Vice?    
SP: Still looking. The Prophet. Playing music. You.              
CA: Who do you want to play next?
SP: Someone more like me.                                                    
CA: At the end of your life, if you have time to reflect, what do you think you will think? SP: "Thank you."
CA: If you could make everyone in the world do one thing, what would it be?  
SP: Hold hands.  
Casey's film Soul Survivors opens March 16. Summer's film Esther Kahn still needs a US distributor. Call your local multiplex!