Joaquin Phoenix at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005
|Born||Joaquín Rafael Bottom
October 28, 1974
San Juan, Puerto Rico
|Other names||Leaf Phoenix|
|Occupation||Actor, music video director, film producer, musician, social activist|
|Relatives||River Phoenix (brother)
Rain Phoenix (sister)
Summer Phoenix (sister)
Joaquin Rafael Phoenix (/ /; né Bottom, born October 28, 1974), formerly credited as Leaf Phoenix, is an American actor, music video director, producer, musician, and social activist. He started his career as a child actor and 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 as well as nominations for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild, Satellite Award, and BAFTA Award.
He received wider recognition for his portrayal of musician Johnny Cash in the 2005 biographical film Walk the Line. His performance earned him several accolades and nominations, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA Award. He received his third Academy Award nomination for his critically acclaimed performance in the 2012 film The Master as well as his third nomination for a Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award. In 2013, he received his fourth nomination for the Golden Globe Award in the category Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, for his role as Theodore Twombly in Spike Jonze's film Her.
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 was born Joaquín Rafael Bottom in Río Piedras, the sector city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he lived until he was six. 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, was a lapsed Catholic, originally from Fontana, California, and 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 cult 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.
Phoenix came back into public view under tragic circumstances: on October 31, 1993, his brother, River Phoenix, suffered a drug overdose and died, outside the Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room, which was co-owned by Johnny Depp at the time. Joaquin's call to 911 to save his brother was recorded and repeatedly played over the airwaves and on television. The sudden media intrusion into his life proved to be overwhelming; once again, he retreated from the public eye. A year later, at the insistence of his friends, Phoenix reluctantly re-entered the acting profession.
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, 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 the widely panned 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 the 12th of October 2013. Phoenix will reteam with director Paul Thomas Anderson in the first ever adaption of a Thomas Pynchon book, Inherent Vice that is set to be released the 12th of December 2014 and co-starring Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon and Josh Brolin.
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 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,” Phoenix said in a statement to XXL. ”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 behavior 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.
He is a member of In Defense of Animals and PETA, both for which he has actively campaigned. 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, in industry, and research. In 2005, he was awarded the "Humanitarian Award" at the San Diego Film Festival for his work and contribution to Earthlings. He is a vegan.
|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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