Joaquin Phoenix Beau is Afraid in front of blue sky

Beau Is Afraid/A24

‘Beau is afraid kid is real, heres my room’: Actor playing a young Joaquin Phoenix in Ari Aster’s latest debunks baseless conspiracy

He’s an actual actor.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

De-aging an older actor or adding visual effects to a movie character is commonplace. But that’s not the case for Armen Nahapetian, the actor cast as the teen version of Joaquin Phoenix’s character in Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid, who now has to clarify that he is, in fact, not AI or CGI after the film and its posters made some people believe otherwise.

Similar to the CGI Roy Kent conspiracy that emerged during Ted Lasso season 2, the idea of Teen Beau is kind of absurd on its head: Logistically, it would cost the film a lot of money to use visual effects to de-age Phoenix when it would be easier to cast another actor to play a younger version of Beau.

But when the first poster for  Beau Is Afraid debuted a few months ago, which featured the name of the film as a hashtag and “JOAQUIN PHOENIX” in caps over Nahapetian’s head, people had questions about what was going on. The similarities between the two actors were apparent in a different poster, which featured Nahapetian and three versions of Phoenix with three distinct looks (each older than the next).

In most cases, when that happens, the similarities would be seen as a casting coup. With Beau Is Afraid, there was some posturing about whether the poster was “generated by AI or something” or if the young version of Beau on the poster was either a de-aged Phoenix or AI-generated art. 

Shortly after, the conspiracy (a very silly one with no factual basis) quieted down. But now that the press tour for Beau Is Afraid is ramping up (including at the film’s premiere) ahead of the film’s April 21 release, the idea that Nahapetian is somehow computer-generated reemerged. Early in the press tour, A24 played into the conspiracy. In one video filled with purposeful glitches and mouth movements that don’t quite sync up with what he’s saying, Nahapetian introduces himself as Joaquin Phoenix, says he’s promoting Aster’s latest film, and tells us that “it’s perfectly safe.”

@a24 Replying to @averyno51106  he is real #beauisafraid ♬ original sound – A24

But others are just as much shocked that Nahapetian isn’t computer-generated when they see him standing alongside Aster and the rest of the cast, including Phoenix. Instead of using Nahapetian’s name, he’s often called the “Beau Is Afraid kid.”

“You guys can just be normal about the Beau is Afraid kid,” @Thatoneguy64 tweeted.

“It’s gotta be a weird week for this kid,” @kindagewnish said on TikTok. “Imagine going to a bunch of red carpet events for your first big movie and then waking up the next day and finding out everyone thought you were CG the whole time.”

@kindagwenish #BeauIsAfraid #Filmtok #Actor ♬ original sound – KindaGwenish

A few days ago, Nahapetian posted a video to his TikTok account, debunking that he’s AI or CGI. In the video, he’s wearing a pair of headphones and has the camera on himself before he shows viewers snippets of his room. Text over his face states, “I’m not CGI.”

“Beau is afraid kid is real, heres my room,” Nahapetian wrote in the video’s caption.

@armiepcharmie Beau is afraid kid is real, heres my room #beauisafraid #a24 #actor ♬ Crushin' – 4me & Destroy Lonely

His most recent TikTok features his two cats, which he assures viewers are also real and not created by AI.

And on his Instagram profile, the first thing stated in his bio addresses the conspiracy. “I’m not AI,” he wrote.

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