Joaquin Rafael Phoenix is an American actor and producer. He has received several accolades, including an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, and two Golden Globes. Staying true to his last name, Joaquin Phoenix has made a career out of making a couple of films, disappearing, and then reappearing from the ashes to rise upward toward greater glory.
Phoenix was born Joaquin Rafael Bottom on October 28, 1974, in the Río Piedras district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to American parents from the U.S. mainland. He is the third of five children, following River (1970–1993) and Rain (born 1972), and preceding Liberty (born 1976) and Summer (born 1978), all of whom are actors. He also has a half-sister named Jodean (born 1964) from a previous relationship of his father. He was born with a microform cleft lip, which has been mistaken for a scar on his upper lip.
Phoenix’s father, John Lee Bottom, is originally from California, and is of mostly English, some German, and remote French ancestry. His mother, Arlyn (née Dunetz), was born in New York City to Ashkenazi Jewish parents, whose families were from Russia and Hungary. Arlyn moved to California, meeting Phoenix’s father while hitchhiking. They married in 1969, years later joined a religious cult, the Children of God, and began traveling throughout South America. His parents eventually became disenchanted with the Children of God; they decided to leave the group and at the age of 3, he returned to the U.S. in 1977. They changed their last name to Phoenix, after the mythical bird that rises from its own ashes, symbolizing a new beginning. Around this time, Joaquin began calling himself “Leaf“, desiring to have a nature-related name like his siblings, inspired by spending time outdoors raking leaves. “Leaf” became the name he used as a child actor, until he changed it back to Joaquin at age 15.
Phoenix started acting on television with his brother River and sister Summer. His first major film role was in SpaceCamp (1986). During this period, he was credited as Leaf Phoenix, his self-given name. He later went back to his birth name and received positive reviews for his supporting work in the comedy-drama To Die For (1995) and the period film Quills (2000). He received wider attention for his portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator (2000), which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He subsequently earned Best Actor nominations for portraying musician Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005), an alcoholic war veteran in The Master (2012), which won him the Volpi Cup for Best Actor; and won the award for playing the title character in Joker (2019). Phoenix’s other films include the horror films Signs (2002) and The Village (2004), the historical drama Hotel Rwanda (2004), the romantic drama Her (2013), the crime satire Inherent Vice (2014), and the psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here (2017), for which he won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor.
Phoenix has also ventured into directing music videos, as well as producing films and television shows. For recording the soundtrack to Walk the Line, he won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. Phoenix is a social activist, lending his support to several charities and humanitarian organizations. He is 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. Phoenix is also known for his animal rights advocacy. He has been a vegan since the age of three and campaigns for PETA and In Defense of Animals.
Phoenix dated his Inventing the Abbotts co-star Liv Tyler from 1995 to 1998 and South African model Topaz Page-Green from 2001 to 2005. Since late 2016, he has been dating Rooney Mara. In July 2019, it was confirmed that they are engaged.
In early April 2005, Phoenix checked himself into rehab to be treated for alcoholism. Since 2006, he has lived in the Hollywood Hills. On his religious background, he has said, “My parents believed in God. I’m Jewish, my mom’s Jewish, but she believes in Jesus, she felt a connection to that. But they were never religious. I don’t remember going to church, maybe a couple of times.“
Phoenix is famous for his anxiety when acting and receiving awards. During a 2012 interview with Interview magazine, he said, “I still get nauseous the day before and have weeks of incredible anxiety. They have to put fucking pads in my armpits because I sweat so much that it just drips down my wardrobe. For the first three weeks of shooting, I’m just sweating. It’s pure anxiety, and I love it.“
- Full Name: Joaquin Rafael Bottom
- Other Names: Leaf Phoenix, Kitten, Joaq, Leaf
- Birth Date: October 28, 1974
- Birth Place: San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Nationality: American
- Height: 5′ 8″ (1.73 m)
- Profession: Actor, producer
- Years active: 1982–present
- Partner(s): Rooney Mara (2016–present)
- Parent(s): Arlyn Phoenix (mother), John Lee Bottom (father)
- Relatives: River Phoenix (brother), Rain Phoenix (sister), Liberty Phoenix (sister), Summer Phoenix (sister)
- Commodus in Gladiator (2000), directed by Ridley Scott.
- Merrill Hess in Signs (2002)
- Johnny Cash in Walk the Line
- Lucius Hunt in The Village
- Arthur Fleck / Joker in Joker
- Darkened circles under his eyes
- Scar on upper lip
- Deep husky voice
- Often plays emotionally and mentally troubled characters
- Usually plays dark, brooding, sinister types
- Often works with James Gray