It’s well-documented that artists of many kinds—writers and actors among them—hate reading, seeing or listening to their own work. Take your pick: Julianne Moore says she finds more joy in making the movie than watching it, as does Jared Leto; Meryl Streep watches all of her films just one time before releasing them into the ether, leaving them in the past and “[looking] forward.”
And yesterday, in her Harper’s Bazaar cover story, Gwyneth Paltrow was the latest in the litany of creatives to reveal her worst fear: seeing herself on-screen. “Paltrow rarely acts these days, and neither of her kids has seen any of her films, save for the Iron Man movies,” the story reads. “If Paltrow comes across one of her films herself, the reaction is visceral. ‘I vom,’ she says. ‘I gag. I hate it.'”
It may seem dramatic (she is an actress, despite her best efforts to “ne-ver” act again, as she says in the same profile), and other actors have released more grounded explanations for tuning out their own movies, like Jesse Eisenberg, who said in 2016, “I really like…working in this bubble and I can experience these personal emotions without thinking that it’s going to be scrutinized by, in some cases, a lot of people.”
Sure—valid and perfectly reasonable. But if we’re being honest, the drama of this Hollywood habit is way more tantalizing. Now all we need is for someone to take the opposite tack, and go long about how they glean utter joy from seeing themselves 90 feet wide and 30 feet tall in theaters.
The Marriage Story actor made headlines this year when he walked out of an NPR interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, after very docile and sweet host Gross encouraged Driver to buckle up and take his headphones off, because they were fixing to play his rendition of Being Alive from the musical Company. Driver did remove his headphones, but only to leave the studio. It’s not the first time he’s gone to extreme measures to avoid the sound of his own voice: in his 2015 interview with the same host on the same show, he declined to listen to an audio clip of himself. “I’ve watched myself or listened to myself before, then always hate it,” Driver said at the time. “And then wish I could change it, but you can’t. And I think I have, like, a tendency to try to make things better or drive myself and the other people around me crazy with the things I wanted to change or I wish I could change.”
It’s an incredibly Joaquin Phoenix thing to say, but the man who just won a Golden Globe for Joker and famously despises the press also cannot stand watching movies in which he’s featured—so much so that he’s only seen two: Her and The Master, which director Paul Thomas Anderson reportedly forced to him to watch. ”I thought I might be mature enough to watch and learn,” he said in 2015. “To think: These are the mistakes that were made. But it’s still something I struggle with…Oh, this sounds stupid. Who gives a shit?”
For her part, Reese Witherspoon “[spirals] into a state of self-hate,” as she told Chelsea Handler on Chelsea Lately. “It’s torture. Why would you want to watch yourself being stupid and pretending to be somebody else?” Granted, this statement was made almost 10 years ago, so maybe Witherspoon’s stance has changed— but it’s shared by her Big Little Lies costar Nicole Kidman, who said in a Daily Mail interview that she “squirmed” throughout an entire screening of Australia, turning to her husband Keith Urban and asking, “Am I any good in this movie?” Then she left the country to avoid reading any reviews of her performance.
Javier Bardem, you good? Because you seem to be struggling with intense body dysmorphia. When asked about watching his own performances in a GQ profile, he said, “”I can’t even watch that fucking nose, that fucking voice, those ridiculous eyes. I can’t handle that.” Although any writer will tell you that listening to their own voice while transcribing interviews is akin to nails on a chalkboard, on loop—so Bardem gets a pass on that one.