Joaquin Phoenix, or Leaf as he liked to be known back then, was born on October 28, 1974. How could his young self anticipate that his period playing on the streets for a few cents would forever impact the direction of his life? Phoenix grew up in a financially unstable environment and turned to singing and dancing to supplement the family’s income. However, he was quickly recognized by a Hollywood children’s agency, which helped this little star get broader exposure. Then, as the saying goes, the rest is history! Film after film, young Phoenix honed his acting abilities to become a refined performer of his generation. Aside from acting, he is a passionate activist and philanthropist who works for a variety of causes and organizations.
Joaquin Rafael Phoenix, originally born as Joaquin Rafael Bottom, was born in Rio Piedras to parents John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Bottom. His parents were devout members of the Children of God ministry. He has four siblings namely: River, Rain, Liberty, and Summer. Phoenix spent most of his childhood traveling with his family between Central and South America. However, his parents were disillusioned with the group’s theological viewpoint and eventually distanced themselves from it. They moved to the United States in 1978 and adopted the surname Phoenix. Taking in the traditions of his elder siblings, he began performing arts on the streets to help support the family financially. Soon after, the youngsters were discovered by a top Hollywood children’s agency, which helped them land roles in television shows and programs. Phoenix and his brother River toiled through the hardships of work and life until they could experience money and fame a decade later.
Phoenix was paired with famous actors to make a breakthrough. In Oliver Stone’s “U-Turn,” he starred with Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, and Billy Bob Thornton. Furthermore, he co-starred in “Return to Paradise” and “8MM” alongside Vince Vaughn in 1999. So far, he’d played protagonists or eccentrics, but he wasn’t about to be stuck in the circle. In “Gladiator,” he played Commodus, the wicked ruler of Rome. His depiction of a villain was so powerful and realistic that he was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 2001 Academy Awards. With such recognition, he was confident in moving on to the next huge smash and gave great hits during this time.
Phoenix first met his co-star Rooney Mara in 2012. The two developed a friendship and started dating. Four years later, during the filming of “Mary Magdalene,” their engagement was announced and the pair was rumored to be expecting their first child together the following year. It was revealed in late September 2020 that the couple had a boy who was named after Phoenix’s late brother, River.
He makes a guest appearance in River's groundbreaking television series, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
After playing many supporting roles, his outstanding portrayal as Dianne West's wayward kid in Ron Howard's film "Parenthood" paves the path for more acting opportunities.
He restarts his professional career through Gus van Sant's "To Die For" with a name change from Leaf to his real name, Joaquin.
With his depiction of the envious emperor, Commodus, in the Roman epic "Gladiator," he climbs the ladder of success earning him several honors, including Oscar nominations.
He plays the Joker in Todd Phillips' psychological thriller "Joker," for which he receives international recognition and an Oscar win for best actor.
He is praised for his role as a radio broadcaster in Mike Mills' play "C'mon C'mon," where he exhibits a passionate performance that radiates from start to finish.
Why We Love Joaquin Phoenix
He has a soft spot for animals
At an award ceremony, Phoenix proudly wore his outfit to communicate a message. He reminds us that we must strive for a future whereby all animals are valued and protected.
He is an environmentalist
Phoenix and other activists unfurled a 390-square-foot vegan promotional poster. This is one of their ways to urge people to abandon animal products and go vegan.
He supports plant-based businesses
He enjoys Monty's Good Burger in Los Angeles, which serves delicious vegan burgers. He wants to influence the community to be eco-friendly.
5 Surprising Facts
He is a staunch vegan
He has been a vegan ever since the age of four and does not wear leather.
His family was part of a cult
He and his family were involved in the cult when he was quite young.
His all-time favorite movie
"Step Brothers" by Adam McKay is the film he has watched the most times.
He disliked his name as a boy
Many of his early roles are credited to him as "Leaf Phoenix."
He does difficult stuff for movies
For his role as Arthur Fleck in the 2019 picture “Joker,” the actor had to shed 52 pounds.
Joaquin Phoenix FAQs
How long did it take Joaquin Phoenix to prepare for his role as the Joker?
He prepared for the role for eight months.
What is Joaquin Phoenix's physical disability?
Sprengel’s Deformity is an uncommon birth defect in which the shoulder blade or scapula is elevated on one side of the body.
Why did Joaquin Phoenix get the moniker Leaf?
He started calling himself Leaf after spending time outside sweeping leaves and wishing to have a nature-related moniker like his brothers. He went by the name Leaf until the age of fifteen, then he returned to his real name Joaquin.
Joaquin Phoenix’s birthday dates