Joaquin Phoenix's Candid Quotes on His Childhood Cult, Joker, River's Death, Rooney Mara and More

Joaquin Phoenix is a virtual lock to nab the Best Actor trophy Sunday. 

The four-time Academy Award nominee has already scooped up a Golden Globe, a SAG, a BAFTA and a Critic’s Choice Award for his deft take on the mentally deranged titular character in Todd Phillips‘ Joker and prognosticators from Vanity Fair to The Atlantic to The Hollywood Reporter insist he’s a slam dunk. 

So now, really, the only question is exactly what he’ll say when he takes the stage at the 2020 Oscars. Because as he’s swept the award circuit this season, Phoenix has proven to be as provocative and unpredictable as he is talented.  

At the Golden Globes, he spent the bulk of his three minutes riffing on the dangers of ignoring environmental hazards, congratulating the Hollywood Foreign Press on their decision to serve a plant-based menu “recognizing and acknowledging the link between animal agriculture and climate change,” while taking his colleagues to task for their casual use of private jets. (He also dissed the contest as a whole, calling it “this thing that is created to sell advertisements for the TV show,” before giving a sweet shoutout to girlfriend Rooney Mara.) 

He kept things relatively tame at the Screen Actors Guild Awards two weeks later, offering praise to his fellow nominees and Heath Ledger, who delivered his own award-winning turn as the Joker a decade ago, only to pivot to the film industry’s stunning lack of diversity while accepting his BAFTA. 

“I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say that I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving, don’t have that same privilege,” he said at the top of his speech. “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people who have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from. I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment, although that’s what we give ourselves every year. I think that people just want to be acknowledged and appreciated and respected for their work. This is not a self-righteous condemnation because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive.”

So you have to wonder what message he might be saving up for his big speech this weekend—at a ceremony that only recognized one person of color in the four major categories. “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want to rock the boat,” he said at the Globes. It’s just as an actor who feels his work “should be like a documentary,” as he put it to Vanity Fair last year, where you should be feeling “what you think the character is going through at the moment,” it’s nearly impossible for him to speak with anything but total candor. 

And though he’s notoriously reticent about doing interviews, whenever he does speak up, the 45-year-old Hollywood vet has a few things to say…

Todd Williamson/Getty Images for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Joaquin Phoenix


Joaquin Phoenix, 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

The Master, Joaquin Phoenix

Weinstein Company

Then and Now - SAG Awards Nominees First Red Carpets - Joaquin Phoenix

Jason Kirk/Newsmakers

My Own Private Idaho, Keanu Reeves, River Phoenix

Fine Line Features

River Phoenix, Dark Blood

Sluizer Films

Rain Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix

Amy Graves/Getty Images

Joaquin Phoenix, 2020 Golden Globe Awards, Red Carpet Fashion


Her, Joaquin Phoenix

Warner Bros. Pictures

Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line, Country Movies

Twentieth Century Fox

Joaquin Phoenix, David Letterman

John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images

Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, 2020 Golden Globe Awards, Candids


Joaquin Phoenix, The Joker


Joker, Joaquin Phoenix


Watch the Oscars live on CTV Sunday, February 9 at 8/6MT!

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