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Star of the Week: Joaquin Phoenix

Today’s star of the week was suggested by Claire on Facebook.

It’s Joaquin Phoenix

Born Joaquin Rafael Bottom (pronounced Wa-keen), Phoenix was known in his early career as “Leaf”, a name he gave himself when he was 6 years old (he wanted to have a nature related name like his two older siblings River and Rain).

Weirdly, when Phoenix was born his parents were part of a religious cult called the “Children of God” and were travelling around South America and Puerto Rico. The cult, from what I’ve read sounds pretty shady (I recommend giving it a google and reading up about it if you're interested).

Fortunately his parents became disenchanted with the cult and they left when Joaquin was 3 years old to start a new life. Soon after, they changed their last name to Phoenix to symbolise a new beginning (a Phoenix rising from the ashes).

Other than appearing in various tv commercials Phoenix’s earliest credit was acting alongside his older brother River in an episode of the tv show Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in 1982. This led to appearances in a number of other shows and then his first movie role playing Max in the 1986 sci-fi adventure, SpaceCamp.

Three days after Joaquin’s 19th birthday in 1993, his brother River (Stand By Me, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) died from a drug overdose outside the Viper Room (club) in Hollywood, California. Joaquin was with him at the time and as a result of all the media attention surrounding the incident he retreat from the spotlight for a few years.

After making a comeback and starring in a number of films in the late 90s, Phoenix landed the iconic role of Commodus in Ridley Scott’s epic, Gladiator (2000). His performance received universal praise and got him nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Known for being picky about what roles he chooses, Joaquin has established himself as a highly respected actor with his performances in films like Walk the Line (2005) where he played Johnny Cash (another role that gained him critical acclaim) and more recently, Joker (2019) for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Away from the camera, Phoenix is a vegan and a vocal animal rights activist as well as an environmentalist. He’s also on the board of directors for a non profit organisation called The Lunchbox Fund that provides daily meals to school children in a small town in South Africa.

Finally, if you’ve ever wondered about the scar above his lip, it’s apparently a microform cleft (the mildest form of a cleft lip). Although Joaquin himself has said it was the result of an "act of God." He once said "While pregnant with me, my mother felt a sharp pain one day, and I was born with a mark on my lip."

Well there you go...

Claire’s top 5 Joaquin Phoenix movies are:

Joker (2019)

Walk the Line (2005)

Gladiator (2000)

The Master (2012)

Mary Magdalene (2018)

What are yours?

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