Actor Joaquin Phoenix received worldwide acclaim and appreciation for his villainous character of Roman emperor Commudus in the highly acclaimed Academy Award-winning film Gladiator (2000), in which he won a National Board of Review Award and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award, as well as earned Academy Award and SAG nominations. In the same year, he picked up a San Diego Film Critics Society Award and a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for his scene stealing The Abbe du Coulmier in the acclaimed period drama Quills (2000).
Starting his acting career as a child, Phoenix received his first break in 1989, at age 15, when he portrayed the troubled son of Dianne Wiest in the comedy Parenthood (1989), before the fledgling star quit acting for several years. Since his return in the mid 1990s, Phoenix has had a number of memorable roles in films like Gus Van Sant’s black comedy To Die For (1995, opposite Nicole Kidman), the drama Inventing the Abbotts (1997, with Liv Tyler), Return to Paradise (1998, alongside Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche), Nicolas Cage’s vehicle 8MM (1999), the dark comedy Buffalo Soldiers (2001), the thriller Signs (2001, with Mel Gibson) and Ladder 49 (2004, opposite superstar John Travolta). In a more recent film, Phoenix was honored with a Hollywood Actor of the Year Award for his bright portrayal of country music legend Johnny Cash in director James Mangold’s film Walk the Line (2005).
"I'm a great believer in people coming into your life, and you into theirs, for a reason. And I know that when Liv and I met, it was for a reason. I really needed her and she really needed me. And at a certain point, I think we stopped evolving with each other, stopped progressing, and made a very mature decision to move on, even though there was still a great love there. There's no one gossipy thing that I can share. I’m thankful that we had the time we had." Joaquin Phoenix on relationship with Liv Tyler
Off screen, Joaquin Phoenix, who received $375,000 for Quills (2000), $700,000 for Buffalo Soldiers (2001), $850,000 for Ladder 49 (2004) and 3,500,000 for Walk on the Line (2005), is known as an animal lover and for his tirelessly work as a spokesperson for the animal organization PETA. As for his private life, the Puerto Rico-born actor was romantically involved with actress Liv Tyler, whom he met while on the set of Inventing the Abbotts. The union had a highly exposed relationship before their separation in 1998.
Childhood and Family:
Son to Spanish-Irish John Lee Bottom, and Hungarian-Russian Arlyn Dunitz Jochebed, Joaquin Raphael Phoenix (nicknamed Kitten) was born on October 28, 1974, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In his first year of life, he spent time traveling throughout Puerto Rico and Mexico with his siblings due to the fact his parents became the missionaries for the evangelical group Children of God. Little Joaquin continued his nomadic life for the rest of his childhood, relocating from Mexico to South America at age two, then moving to Caracas, Venezuela, after his patents left the cult. In 1977, the family eventually returned to the U.S, and lived in Florida, but they moved to Los Angeles a year later.
Arriving back in the U.S, Joaquin’s parents encouraged their five children (River, Rainbow, Joaquin, Summer and Liberty) to pursue acting. Joaquin soon followed in his older siblings’ footsteps, River and Rainbow, to enter the entertainment industry. Billed as Leaf Phoenix, eight-year-old Joaquin made his debut performance on television.
The actor currently resides in an apartment in New York City, where he shares the same apartment building with best friend Casey Affleck, sister Summer Phoenix and director Gus Van Sant.
Encouraged by his parents to try his hand at acting, Joaquin Phoenix kicked off his career at age 8 when he landed a guest-starring role in an episode of the short-lived CBS musical adventure series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982), in which older brother River was already a regular cast member. A number of television projects followed, including a role in Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (1984), Kids Don't Tell (1985), "Morningstar/Eveningstar" (1986), as well as guest appearances in "The Fall Guy," "Hill Street Blues" and "Murder, She Wrote" before the twelve-year-old boy got his first taste of the wide screen with a tiny role in the Sci-fi film Space Camp (1986).
After his cinematic debut, Phoenix immediately landed his first starring role as Danny in Russkies (1987) and was featured in the made-for-television movie Secret Witness the following year. He next delivered a touching performance as Dianne Wiest's bothered son, Garry Buckman-Lampkin, in Ron Howard’s insightful comedy Parenthood (1989), but in the early 90s, he decided to put acting on the backburner and returned to Mexico with his father. It was in the year 1993 that Joaquin found himself in the spotlight again. His 23-year-old brother, River, died of a drug overdose in front of Johnny Depp's Hollywood nightclub, The Viper Room, and Phoenix was with him at the time of his death. The incident forced Joaquin to leave Hollywood until 1995.
Changing his first name back to Joaquin, Phoenix made his way back to film in 1995 when he played a troubled youth in Gus Van Sant’s black comedy To Die For, opposite Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon. His impressive turn as the tragically mystified and horny Jimmy Emmett won praise.
In 1997, Phoenix again earned critical raves when he starred with Liv Tyler in the coming-of-age drama Inventing the Abbotts (1997), featuring Hollywood newcomers Joanna Going and Billy Crudup. Unfortunately, the film was a box-office disappointment. His follow-up, Oliver Stone's U-Turn (1997, as insulting boyfriend Toby N. Tucker), followed the trend and became his next film that failed at the box office. In 1998, however, Phoenix was put back into the limelight with the 1998’s hit Return to Paradise, starring opposite fellow up-and-coming actor Vince Vaughn, and Anne Heche. In the thriller film, he portrayed an American youth imprisoned in Malaysia named Lewis McBride, a role that required him to lose a disproportionate amount of weight. Also in 1998, Phoenix rejoined Vaughn for the caper film Clay Pigeons. At the end of decade, the 25-year-old actor gave an acclaimed performance as attentive porn shop owner Max California in the box office disaster 8MM (1999, with Nicholas Cage).
Starring as the shady best friend of Mark Wahlberg, Willie Gutierrez, in director James Gray’s crime The Yards (2000) was Phoenix opening film in the new millennium. His big breakthrough soon arrived when he was cast in the supporting role of malicious Roman emperor Commudus in director Ridley Scott's big-budget Gladiator (2000, starring Russell Crowe). With Ridley Scott in the director’s chair, Phoenix’s bright performance garnered him a National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actor and a Blockbuster Entertainment for Favorite Villain (Internet Only). Additionally, he earned nominations at the Oscars and with the Screen Actors Guild.
Phoenix had another victory with his portrayal of priest The Abbe du Coulmier, opposite Kate Winslet and Geoffrey Rush, in the celebrated period drama Quills (2000). Due to his significant performance, he took home a San Diego Film Critics Society and a Broadcast Film Critics Association award for Best Supporting Actor.
He next shared top billing with Ed Harris in the dark comedy Buffalo Soldiers (2001), playing jaded military camp clerk Ray Elwood. His role was well received by festival critics, providing further proof of his capability as a leading man. Phoenix scored another hit in 2002 when he was chosen to replace actor Mark Ruffalo to portray Mel Gibson's younger brother, Merrill Hess, in director M. Night Shyamalan's rural alien invasion thriller Signs. From 2003-2004, Phoenix added five films to his resume. He first starred opposite Claire Danes in the romance film It's All About Love (2003), provided the voice for Kenai in the animated film Brother Bear (2003), was cast as stoic Lucius Hunt in Shyamalan's The Village (2003), was featured as Jack Daglish in Hotel Rwanda (2004) and headlined Disney's Ladder 49 (2004, opposite superstar John Travolta).
Recently, Phoenix starred as Johnny Cash, opposite Reese Witherspoon, in the biopic tale of late country music legend Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005, director James Mangold). His notable performance handed him the 2005 Hollywood Actor of the Year.
"I didn't know much about him and I wasn't a big country music fan. I listened to the Beatles and David Bowie so I didn't know a lot about him." Joaquin Phoenix on Johnny Cash