A couple of weeks ago, when we learned that Charlize Theron was circling a role in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, we were also led to believe that Robert Downey Jr., whose name had been in and around the project for quite some time, was finally confirmed as the star of the Thomas Pynchon adaptation. Well, this new piece from THR begs to differ a bit, as it states that Joaquin Phoenix, the unhinged star of Anderson’s recent The Master, is in talks to join the proceedings. “The project once had Robert Downey Jr. interested,” says the report, “but ultimately he passed.”

Much as I think we all love Downey Jr. and enjoy watching him on screen, I couldn’t be more excited about this announcement, even if it does still seem to be in that “in talks” stage of the game. Though The Master may have under-performed commercially, it was hard not to get a rush from the power of the director-actor collaboration that resulted between Anderson and Phoenix: the actor’s well-deserved Best Actor nomination doesn’t even begin to tell the story of just how unruly and unleashed he is in the film, and part of that is surely a measure of Anderson’s oversight as well.

And considering that Phoenix’s character would likely be Larry “Doc” Sportello, “a pot-smoking detective on a kidnapping case,” something tells me that Anderson and Phoenix wouldn’t at all be interested in taming themselves for this bound-to-be-bizarre adaptation. (Some choice names from Pynchon’s novel: Shasta Fay Hepworth, Riggs Warbling, Japonica Fenway, Adrian Prussia, Fabian Fazzo.) Anderson, of course, wrote the screenplay himself, which, like the novel, “is set in 1969-1970 Los Angeles.” A period piece though it may be, I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see a return of some of the hallucinogenic stylings of Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love: I’m guessing that Phoenix’s pot intake in the film could very well match his alcohol consumption in The Master.

Megan Ellison‘s invaluable Annapurna Pictures, of course, is financing the film, as they did with The Master. A recent report suggested that Anderson is wanting to start production this year, and a confirmation of Phoenix’s involvement could very well go a long way towards confirming that. With Downey Jr.’s position within the project having been up-for-grabs for so long, I’m sure Anderson and company are eager as ever to get cranking on this thing. Phoenix’s forthcoming 2013 slate, meanwhile, sounds rich as can be: he’s a major player in both James Gray‘s Lowlife and Spike Jonze‘s Her.

What reservations could you possibly have about Anderson and Phoenix re-teaming?

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