Letterman to Phoenix: 'Did you hit your head?'

Actor returns to late-night show after infamous '09 interview

David Letterman chatted up a clean-shaven, sober Joaquin Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Excerpts from the interview:

Letterman: You know I've always liked you. I've been to see your movies, I've always liked you. I recognize you as a powerful talent -- that Johnny Cash thing, you were tremendous in that. And then a year- and-a-half ago, you come out and, honestly, it's like you slipped and hit your head in the tub. And I knew immediately when you sat down, something ain't right, because if you're really the way you appeared to be, you don't go out. You know what I mean? People don't let guys like you out if you're really like that. You don't go out.

Phoenix: Right.

Letterman: So what do you have to say for yourself?

Phoenix: Well, thank you for letting me come on the show last time.

Letterman: Yes, well, we've been dying to have you back a year-and-a-half. No, I meant last time, but this time as well.

Now let me ask you a couple of questions. You're retiring to pursue a career in music. To me, that seems – excuse me, I mean, you did sing in the film, but it seems unlikely because you've been nominated for two Academy Awards. I, frankly, when I heard about it later, was surprised that anybody had believed it. And then after seeing you here -- first of all, really all I care about is me in this. Now, did I know anything about this?"

Phoenix: No.

Letterman: Yeah. Was there a script that you and I were working with?

Phoenix: No.

Letterman: I was not part of it, was I?

Phoenix: Yeah, but, like you said, I mean, I think that you've interviewed many, many people and I assumed that you would know the difference between a character and a real person, so... but I apologize. I didn't... I hope I didn't offend you in any way...

Letterman: Oh, no...oh, no, no, no, I was not offended. I'm telling you, it was so much fun. It was batting practice, you know what I mean? Every one of them was a dinger.

Phoenix: Well, we'd hoped to come on a talk show and I was looking for a beat down, and I got one...I want to thank you for that.