Phoenix at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005
|Born||Joaquín Rafael Bottom
October 28, 1974
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
|Other names||Leaf Phoenix|
|Occupation||Actor, music video director, film producer, musician, social activist|
Joaquin Rafael Phoenix (/ /; né Bottom; born October 28, 1974), known formerly as Leaf Phoenix, is an American actor, music video director, producer, musician and social activist. He has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, winning one, and three Academy Awards.
Phoenix started his career by appearing in episodes on television shows with his brother River Phoenix and sister Summer Phoenix. He later appeared in such films as SpaceCamp (1986), Russkies (1987) and Ron Howard's Parenthood (1989). During his period as a child actor he was credited as Leaf Phoenix, his self-given name. He later went back to his birth name "Joaquin" and received positive reviews for his portrayals in a wide range of films, most notably in To Die For (1995) and Quills (2000). He came to wide attention for his portrayal of Commodus in the 2000 historical epic film Gladiator, which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He has subsequently earned Best Actor nominations for portraying musician Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005) and for his highly acclaimed role in The Master (2012). Some of his other notable films are Signs (2002), Hotel Rwanda (2004), The Village (2004), Two Lovers (2008), The Immigrant (2013), Her (2013) and Inherent Vice (2014).
Aside from his acting career, he has also ventured into directing music videos, as well as producing films and television shows. He has recorded an album, the soundtrack to Walk The Line, for which he won a Grammy Award. Phoenix is also a social activist, lending his support to a number of charities and humanitarian organizations. Phoenix is also known for his animal rights activism. He has been a vegan since the age of three and actively campaigns for PETA and In Defense of Animals.
Phoenix was born Joaquín Rafael Bottom in Río Piedras, to parents from the U.S. mainland. He is the third of five children, including River (1970–1993), Rain (1972–), Liberty (1976–), and Summer (1978–). He also has a half-sister named Jodean (1964–) from a previous relationship of his father's.
Phoenix's father, John Lee Bottom, originally from Fontana, California, was a lapsed Catholic of English, as well as German and French, ancestry. Phoenix's mother, Arlyn (née Dunetz), was born in The Bronx, New York, to Jewish parents whose families emigrated from Russia and Hungary. Arlyn left her family in 1968 and moved to California, later meeting Phoenix's father while hitchhiking. They married in 1969, then later joined the religious group, the Children of God, and began traveling throughout South America. His parents eventually became disenchanted with the Children of God; they made the decision to leave the group and returned to the U.S. in 1978. They changed their last name to "Phoenix" to symbolize a new beginning. This also was around the time Joaquin began calling himself Leaf, desiring to have a nature-related name like his siblings, and inspired by spending time outdoors raking leaves with his father. (In a Jay Leno interview, Joaquin said he had originally called himself Antleaf as a child, it is unclear if he was being serious.) Leaf became the name he used as a child actor, until at age 15 he changed it back to Joaquin.
In order to provide food and financial support for the family, the children performed on the streets and at various talent contests, singing and playing instruments. In Los Angeles, his mother started working as a secretary for NBC, and his father worked as a landscaper. Phoenix and his siblings were eventually discovered by one of Hollywood's leading children's agents, Iris Burton, who got the five children acting work, mainly doing commercials and television show appearances. Joaquin went on to establish himself as a child actor before deciding to withdraw from acting for a while and travel to Mexico and South America with his father.
In October 1993, his brother River suffered a fatal drug overdose. Joaquin's call to 911 seeking help for his brother was repeatedly played on radio and television. In response, he retreated from the public eye for about a year.
Phoenix's first acting jobs were guest appearances on two television shows with his brother River in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982), and Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (1984) as well as an episode, "We're Off to Kill the Wizard" in Murder, She Wrote with his sister Summer. In 1985, he appeared with JoBeth Williams in the CBS television movie Kids Don't Tell. After his film debut in SpaceCamp (1986) as Max and starred in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "A Very Happy Ending" the same year, Phoenix first starring role was in Russkies (1987) and co-starred in Ron Howard's Parenthood (1989), in which he was credited as Leaf Phoenix.
During the comeback portion of his career, Phoenix went back to his given name "Joaquin," and was often cast in supporting roles as conflicted, insecure characters with a dark side. He has earned positive reviews for his portrayals of various individuals: a troubled teen in Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) co-starring with Nicole Kidman, a small-town troublemaker in Oliver Stone's U Turn, a poor man in love with a rich girl in Inventing the Abbotts (1997), the cruel Roman emperor Commodus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000) in which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a conflicted priest in Quills (2000), a washed-up baseball player in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs (2002), the irresolute husband of a superstar-skater in It's All About Love (2003), the voice of Kenai in the Disney animated film, Brother Bear, a lovestruck farmer in Shyamalan's The Village (2004), a disillusioned cameraman in Terry George's Hotel Rwanda (2004), and an heroic firefighter in Ladder 49 (2004).
Phoenix was cast in Walk the Line, a Johnny Cash biopic, after Cash himself approved of him. Reese Witherspoon, who portrayed June Carter Cash in the film and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, stated during an interview that when they first performed in-character before a live audience, she was so impressed with his impersonation that she knew she "had to step it up a notch." All of Cash and Carter's vocal tracks in the movie and on the accompanying soundtrack are played and sung by Phoenix and Witherspoon. In 2005, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and won a Golden Globe in the same category. In 2006, Phoenix was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Phoenix's film I'm Still Here debuted at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. He subsequently took a self-imposed break from acting and returned in Paul Thomas Anderson's film The Master in 2012. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Phoenix won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor, shared with co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Phoenix had the lead role in Spike Jonze's critically acclaimed film Her that premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 12, 2013. Phoenix reunited with director Paul Thomas Anderson in the first ever adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon book, Inherent Vice. The film had a limited release on December 12, 2014 and opened wider on January 9, 2015. The movie featured Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon and Josh Brolin. Phoenix later signed on to co-star in Woody Allen's latest, as-yet untitled film with Emma Stone, which began production in July 2014.
Phoenix served as one of the executive producers of a television show called 4Real, a half-hour series which showcase celebrity guests on global adventures "in order to connect with young leaders who are creating social and economic change." He is also listed as a producer on the movie We Own the Night. In music, he was said to have produced the opening track for Pusha T's My Name Is My Name album alongside Kanye West. The track is called "King Push". Phoenix then denied in a statement to XXL having produced the record, saying "While it was widely reported that Pusha T used my beat and that I produced his song, I can't take any credit. A friend’s son played me his music, and all I did was make an introduction to Kanye [West]'s camp.".
In early April 2005, Phoenix checked into rehab to be treated for alcoholism. On January 26, 2006, while driving down a winding canyon road in Hollywood, Phoenix ran off the road and rolled his car. The crash was reportedly caused by brake failure. Shaken and confused, Phoenix heard a tapping on his window and a voice say, "Just relax." Unable to see the man, Phoenix replied, "I'm fine. I am relaxed." The man replied, "No, you're not," and stopped Phoenix from lighting a cigarette while gas was leaking into the car cabin. Phoenix then realized that the man was famed German film director Werner Herzog. While Herzog helped Phoenix out of the wreckage by breaking the back window of the car, bystanders phoned for an ambulance. Phoenix approached Herzog to express gratitude, but Herzog downplayed his heroism and returned to his home nearby.
Phoenix unexpectedly announced in late 2008 that he had retired from acting to pursue a rapping career, and that the forthcoming Two Lovers would be his last film. On February 11, 2009, Phoenix appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote Two Lovers. He seemed incoherent and was largely unresponsive towards David Letterman's questions about the film and his career plans. Phoenix appeared on Late Show again on September 22, 2010 and revealed that his "retirement" and eccentric behaviour were for a mockumentary, I'm Still Here (2010), that he and Casey Affleck were filming.
In October 2012, Phoenix proclaimed the Academy Awards to be "bullshit". He later gave an interview amending his earlier comments and acknowledging that the Oscars provide an important platform for many deserving filmmakers.
Phoenix has long been a social activist, lending his support to a number of charities and humanitarian organizations, notably Amnesty International, The Art of Elysium, HEART, and the Peace Alliance (which campaigns for a United States Department of Peace). Phoenix is also on the board of directors for The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization which provides daily meals to students of township schools in Soweto of South Africa.
Animal rights activism
Phoenix is a vegan; he is a member of In Defense of Animals and PETA and has actively campaigned for both. In 2013 he starred in a PETA short film that promoted veganism, showing Phoenix "drowning" as he narrates, "In water, humans drown just as fish suffocate on land. Put yourself in their place. Try to relate." ABC refused to air the film during the Academy Awards broadcast, citing the ad's controversial nature. For Nation Earth he narrated Earthlings, a video about the investigation of animal abuse in factory farms, pet mills, industry and research. In 2005 he was awarded the Humanitarian Award at the San Diego Film Festival for his work and contribution to Earthlings.
|1982||Seven Brides for Seven Brothers||Travis||Episode: "Christmas Song"|
|1983||Mr. Smith||Episode: "Mr. Smith Goes Public"|
|1984||Murder, She Wrote||Billy Donovan||Episode: "We're Off to Kill the Wizard"|
|1984||ABC Afterschool Special||Robby Ellsworth||Episode: "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia"
Nominated—Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Family Film Made for Television (shared with River Phoenix)
|1984||The Fall Guy||Kid||Episode: "Terror U"|
|1984||Hill Street Blues||Daniel Flowers||Episode: The Rise and Fall of Paul the Wall|
|1986||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Pagey Fisher||Episode: "A Very Happy Ending"|
|1989||Still the Beaver||Kyle Cleaver||Episode: "Still the New Leave It to Beaver"|
|1989||Superboy||Billy Hercules||Episode: "Little Hercules"|
- List of Puerto Ricans
- List of Puerto Rican Academy Award winners and nominees
- List of vegans
- History of the Jews in Puerto Rico
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