You may remember him as Commodus from Gladiator (2000) or perhaps Theodore from Her (2013), but this week’s Hollywood Spotlight focuses on the multiple academy-award nominated Joaquin Phoenix, who stars in the greatly anticipated Joker (2019), set to release in theaters on Oct. 4.
Born Joaquin Rafael Bottom in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Joaquin Phoenix is the middle child of a troupe of five talented children. After serving as Children of God missionaries and traveling through Central and South America, the family adopted the surname “Phoenix” to celebrate new beginnings in the Los Angeles area and a shift from their unconventional upbringing. While his parents turned to more traditional jobs, a talent agent was able to represent all five children. Joaquin’s first major acting role was as a guest appearance on his older brother River’s sitcom, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982).
After working with River once again on the afterschool special Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (1984), Joaquin was finally able to make it on his own in made-for-TV productions. However, his first big-screen debut occurred in 1986 with the release of SpaceCamp. During this period as a child actor he was credited as Leaf Phoenix, a self-given name, similar to the earthier names of his siblings River and Summer.
Once the family relocated once again to Florida in the late ‘80s, Joaquin was cast almost immediately as an angst-ridden adolescent in Parenthood (1989) after Universal Pictures had opened a new studio in the area. Despite his performance being well-received, Joaquin decided to withdraw from acting. Unfortunately, his return to the public eye three years later occurred due to tragic circumstances involving the death of his brother River. Even though he was reluctant to re-enter the world of acting, Joaquin signed up to work with Gus Van Sant to star in To Die For (1995), reverting back to his birth name.
After a string of successful movies and performances that earned critical kudos, the film that confirmed Joaquin as a star was the historical epic Gladiator (2000). His role as the selfish and paranoid young emperor Commodus earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 2001 Oscars. Similarly, he received two more Oscar nominations for his role as Johnny Cash in the biography Walk the Line (2005) as well as Freddie Quell in The Master (2012).
With such an impressive resume, we can’t help but to get excited for the release of his latest psychological thriller film Joker (2019). Set in 1981, Joker follows Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who is driven insane and turns to a life of crime and chaos in the fictional Gotham City. After premiering at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on Aug. 31, 2019, the film received positive reviews from critics, with particular praise for Phoenix’s performance.
Here are some more fun facts about Joaquin Phoenix:
-Phoenix’s mother, Arlyn met Phoenix’s father while hitchhiking.
-His parents became disenchanted with the Children of God’s practices and made the decision to leave the group in 1978.
-In order to provide financial support for the family, the Phoenix children performed on the streets and at various talent contests.
-To this date, Joaquin and River hold the distinction of being the first and only brothers to be nominated for acting Academy Awards.
-Besides acting, he also ventured into directing music videos, as well as producing films and television shows.
-Phoenix dated his Inventing the Abbotts co-star Liv Tyler from 1995 to 1998.
-In July 2019, it was confirmed he became engaged to actress Rooney Mara.
-Phoenix has long been a social activist and animal rights activist.
-He is on the board of directors for The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides daily meals to students of township schools in Soweto of South Africa.
-He has been a vegan ever since his childhood.